Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Charles Lloyd-Mirrors-ECM

What can or cannot be said of the storied musical career of Charles Lloyd? It has been 3 years since his prior release, Rabo de Nube. With that said The Seer Charles Lloyd needs to be recorded more than we are privy. We need his energy. We need his vistas of endless, bountiful, fruitful elegies. For this latest release, Mirrors is but a mini-epic of his music/life hymn. Just a sliver of a chapter we are hereby entreated on an august journey to nirvana. Yet it is like trying to catch a comet who’s tail we only capture in a glance.
Mirrors, does feature the oft herald signature riff we’ve come to expect. The scat-like melodic cadence I’ve come to call, “The Lloyd Flutter”. But then again too we are beholden to the unexpected as well. The late drum master Billy Higgins once remarked of Lloyd’s alto saxophone as his, “secret weapon” and the disc begins lovingly with the achingly tender muse, “I Fall in Love Too Easily”. Ahhhhhh....it is a lesson of the heart and the heart broken. Which segues into the lithe yet effectively poignant reprisal of ‘Go Down Moses’.
This group of pianist Jason Moran; bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland breathe and move as substantive organism. In Moran, The Seer Lloyd has a soul mate for Moran is head and shoulder above the perhaps more notable names bandied about in today’s jazz scene. In Moran, youth is not wasted on the young. He seems to have spend plenty quality time neath the charge of The Seer Lloyd plumbing the depths of The master’s penchant for Americana, the Negro spirituals, unearthed rich chestnuts and his own compositional laments and tributes. They share a mutual musical love and it is apparent here.
There are redresses of the aforementioned ‘Go Down Moses’; “The Water is Wide” and a perennial favorite, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. Plus 2 Monk offerings, “Ruby, My Dear” and “Monk’s Mood”.
The Seer Charles Lloyd is in a heavenly yet earth bound sanctuary all his own. And Mirror is testimony of his continued sanctification. I Bow to his Greatness!!!!

Eddie Mendenhall-Cosine Meets Tangent-Miles High Records

Just until a few minutes ago the name Eddie Mendenhall didn’t ring a bell. And then too who, I mean whom would give a mathematical title to a new CD release besides Anthony Braxton maybe?

Entitled “Cosine Meets Tangent” by itself is far above my head, let it be said at the outset. That’s where the dialectics end. Mendenhall, something of a mystery man to a national audience but evidently not to folks out on the west coast long familiar with his high powered brand of artistry is a’heavy’ kind of spirit. Math aside he’s made a name for himself in jazz circles and will certainly solidify it with this debut.

A long time educator “Cosine Meets Tangent” is far from the pallid halls of academia. Quite the contrary. From the very first notes and melodies of “Protocol”, the opening cut Mendenhall and his compatible quartet swing and sway. Those rhythm mates are by-the-way vibist Mark Sherman; bassist John Schifflett and the venerable drummer Akira Tana. Sherman, is a distinctive voice on vibes has been garnering a steady rep is a delight to hear. Doesn't sound like the ‘garden variety’ vibist and is highly attentive and melodic. Bassist Shifflett lays in the pocket and what can you say about the potent master strokes of Akira Tana. The thing I’ve always enjoyed about Tana is that he is never afraid to make mistakes and sometimes sounds down right sloppy. But that’s OK because he can be exciting in the fray making up for it with subtle moves and shifts. He’s a hell-of-a drummer. Always has been.

Mendenhall immediately grabs the attention with his memorable tunes - the aforementioned ‘Protocol’ and ‘Spring Waltz” which beckons a little Bill Evans. If I were hard pressed to make comparisons Mendenhall arch's Hancock/Cables frivolity and Mugrew Miller/James Williams’ passion. He is of their lineage. And like them can swing with the best of them.

Of the disc’s 10 tunes Mendenhall writes 8, Sherman contributing one and ‘Easy To Remember’ the lone standard on which Sherman plays beautifully. When all said and done this is an exceedingly fine program to be proud of from an exceptional group and its up-to-the-task leader Eddie Mendenhall. I’ll remember his name now!