Nate Chinen for 88.3 WBGO –
Saxophonist and flutist Charles Lloyd has led some rather spectacular bands over the years — from his heralded late-1960s quartet to the Marvels, his current group with guitarist Bill Frisell. Passin’ Thru, due out on Blue Note on July 14, captures the unique intensity of the Charles Lloyd New Quartet, a decade-long proposition with Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums.
This album was recorded on tour, almost entirely in Santa Fe, New Mexico last July. There are a few recent compositions, including a searching piece called “Part 5, Ruminations” and the self-explanatory “Nu Blues.” But the album also reaches into the past, extracting new sounds and ideas from some of Lloyd’s classic calling cards, like “Dream Weaver,” “Tagore,” and the title track, “Passin’ Thru.”
This new “Passin’ Thru” begins with a dramatic open-form bass solo by Rogers, before kicking into its revved-up Caribbean beat. Lloyd plays the melody on tenor, in sync with Moran’s piano, and each artist takes a rangy, live-wire solo, punctuated by drum fills. (You’ll hear Moran calling out exhortations as he jabbers at the keys.)
Lloyd, who recently turned 79, is a spiritual seeker who tends to frame his musical output as part of a larger calling. He’s a 2015 NEA Jazz Master who can still give the impression of a restless soul: The New Quartet isn’t the sort of ensemble that a jazz elder would convene for the purpose of coasting. Passin’ Thru presents glowing evidence of the band’s flashpoint agility and rubbery cohesion, both natural extensions of Lloyd’s aesthetic instinct.