It’s always exciting to hear an artist perform if you have interviewed them, and I had spent an hour and a half on the phone to Charles Lloyd. So I was ready for this concert — just not ready enough to be early, so the usual parking scramble ensued.

Andrea Keller Quartet
Andrea Keller Quartet

The opening, all-too-short set was exactly what was needed. Keller aired some beautifully crafted and melodic compositions with the help of Ian Whitehurst on tenor sax, Eugene Ball on trumpet and Simon Barker on drums. There was plenty of space in these pieces, suiting the venue, and the piano held sway (why do I say it that way if music is not a contest?). The horns were aptly understated and Barker displayed his usual finesse.

I always think it is a significant loss when patrons don’t bother to turn up until the main event, so to speak. The local support bands are almost always excellent. And this opening set was enticingly bewitching, so that Keller’s mob of Aussies could have played on and we wouldn’t have been too upset … well, a little, perhaps.

Charles Lloyd New Quartet
Charles Lloyd New Quartet

On Day 5 of this festival, at the Australian Art Orchestra’s tribute to Miles Davis, a member of the audience from Adelaide enthused about the Charles Lloyd New Quartet concert. He said there was something special about the performance, that Lloyd “had an aura about him”.

Often in interviews Lloyd describes himself as “a dreamer”. “I’m born into the world, but I don’t really fit into it,” he says. And there is a sense that, as the title of the quartet’s first encore piece on Tuesday night suggested, he is just Passin’ Thru. Other pieces played — Prayer, Dream Weaver: Meditation, Requiem, Booker’s Garden, The Water is Wide and the closing Silvio Rodriguez composition Rabo De Nube (tail of a cloud) — all point to Lloyd’s head space, to where he’s at, so to speak.

As the notes of Prayer floated across the auditorium, serenity seemed to settle on those assembled. When Lloyd spoke, it with his characteristic grace and humility. “We are honoured to be here. We don’t understand the planet or how they’ve worked the game out, but we still want to play this music,” he said.

Lloyd Quartet
Charles Lloyd plays, Reuben Rogers listens

Lloyd’s playing, on tenor sax and alto flute, was sublime. He is obviously in the moment and being guided by what wells up within him as well as what Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on acoustic bass and Eric Harland on drums were bringing — and that was plenty. But Lloyd may play a little in the way he talks, which is to be open to ideas that flow in and be ready to follow. Occasionally he loses his way. How would I really know if that happens when he plays, but on one instance in one piece — perhaps Booker’s Garden — I did think it was beautiful, but was drifting around for a while rather than going anywhere.

Charles Lloyd New Quartet
Reuben Rogers

One thing I liked particularly was the spring in Lloyd’s step when he returned to play after solos by Moran (absolutely outstanding) and Rogers. It was great to feel the swing creep in so gently to the music and to note how little it took for Lloyd to almost imperceptibly introduce that tiny swing feel that transformed the music. Harland helped, of course. As Lloyd mentioned in his BMW Edge Masterclass, Tommy Dorsey is famous for saying “Nice guys are a dime a dozen. Give me a prick who swings.”

Jason Moran
Sound seeker: Lloyd listens, Jason Moran plays

Space is vital in music, and this quartet demonstrated that so well. A pause can say so much. It can create such expectation that it makes you will the music to continue and that gives energy and drive. This band was so great. They worked together so well, demonstrating that Lloyd being a few years more advanced in age was no impediment.

And they took us away to a higher plane for a sweet while. Rabo De Nube, Lloyd said in my interview, “translates as ‘I wish I could be the tail of a cloud and come down to wash away your tears.’”

They did.

[My thanks to intrepid music writer and broadcaster Jessica Nicholas for passing on the set list]


  1. Pingback: » Blog Archive » CHARLES LLOYD QUARTET: MIRROR

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