Lift Every Voice

COMPOSERS: Charles Lloyd,Silvio Rodriguez,Strayhorn
LABELS: ECM
PERFORMER: Charles Lloyd (ts, f, taragato), Geri Allen (p), John Abercrombie (g), Marc Johnson/ Larry Grenadier (b), Billy Hart (d)
CATALOGUE NO: 018 783-2

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On 11 September 2001 Charles Lloyd was scheduled to open at New York’s Blue Note with the band featured here. This recording is a two-hour meditation on the issues raised by the cataclysmic events of that day.

Unlike the majority of such musical responses – from figures as varied as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Paxton, Neil Young and Steve Earle – Lloyd’s eschews political and ideological specificities, drawing instead on what his wife and co-producer Dorothy Darr calls his ‘idealistic notion of changing the world through the beauty of music’.

To this end, he draws on a lifetime’s study of the world’s music and philosophy, from 14th-century Sufi poetry to the social commentary of Marvin Gaye, from spirituals and hymns to the compositions of Billy Strayhorn.

The result is a deeply felt, humane and profoundly moving album. Lloyd has always had a spiritual, occasionally downright mystical approach to music-making, his tenor sound a tenderly fragile, prayerful, hypnotic warble occasionally hardening into steely resolve, and the carefully chosen mix of melancholy melodies such as Silvio Rodriguez’s ‘Rabo de Nube’, Strayhorn’s ravishingly lovely deathbed composition ‘Blood Count’ and Lloyd’s own memorable originals provides the perfect outlet for him.

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Both Geri Allen – whose fluent but cogent solo contribution to Duke Ellington’s ‘I’m Afraid’ is one of the album’s highlights – and John Abercrombie, gracefully forceful throughout, complement their leader’s meditative elegance perfectly. With a faultless rhythm section providing just the right mixture of discretion and eloquence, this is another superb Lloyd ECM album (his ninth for the label), confirming his reputation as one of the most distinctive, thoughtful and original voices in the music. Chris Parker