Hyperion with Higgins

COMPOSERS: Charles Lloyd
LABELS: ECM
ALBUM TITLE: Charles Lloyd
PERFORMER: Charles Lloyd (ts), Billy Higgins (d), John Abercrombie (g), Larry Grenadier (b), Brad Mehldau (p)
CATALOGUE NO: 014 000-2

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A tribute to drummer Billy Higgins who died in May, Charles Lloyd’s latest release is derived from the same recording session that produced the saxophonist’s heavenly The Water is Wide disc last year. Those familiar with that work will not be disappointed.

Hyperion has a similar reflective, Sunday-afternoon atmosphere, with Lloyd ruminating, via the reed, on mysticism, the blues and Brazil. He has gone from strength to strength since his recent attachment to ECM and this group. His compositions produce dreamy melodies that ebb and flow beneath a structure designed to keep you hanging on to every new eddy.

The controlled intensity of his horn-playing remains centred even in the most intricate improvisation: a skill refined through years of practising meditation techniques, no doubt. Guitarist John Abercrombie receives perhaps more airspace than in previous encounters, his sound adding a steely urban blues dimension to Lloyd’s trademark Eastern/country amalgam. Pianist Mehldau is discreet and tasteful in accompaniment; concise and economical when improvising.

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The Higgins pulse is strong and true below, while his cymbals shower light over the soloists. Small wonder he was so loved by Lloyd and many of the music’s greatest improvisers. Garry Booth