A re­quiem for a fallen men­tor

Charles Lloyd salutes Buddy Col­lette with two works, part of a tran­scen­dent and spon­ta­neous evening.

Los Angeles Times - - Calendar - Greg Burk cal­en­dar@latimes.com

Charles Lloyd rested his tenor sax­o­phone at one point at the Nate Holden Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter on Satur­day night and told the au­di­ence his younger quar­tet mates were “the best mu­si­cians in the world.”

The trib­ute raised a grate­ful smile from 35-yearold pi­anist Ja­son Mo­ran, al­ready es­tab­lished as a jazz mas­ter when he joined the unit three years ago. It was quite a com­pli­ment from the en­lis­ter of stars such as Keith Jar­rett, Jack DeJohnette, Tony Wil­liams, Billy Hig­gins, Brad Mehldau, John Aber­crom­bie, Ga­bor Sz­abo, Dave Hol­land and Geri Allen.

By evening’s end, few in the packed mod­ern am­phithe­ater would have ar­gued.

A some­what sub­dued Lloyd de­scribed the oc­ca­sion as dif­fi­cult but beau­ti­ful. On the one hand, the Mem­phis, Tenn.-raised Mon­tecito res­i­dent was re­turn­ing to the city where he made his first in­roads.

But six days pre­vi­ously, Lloyd had lost his 89-yearold friend and men­tor Buddy Col­lette, the bar­rier-break­ing wood­wind artist who, in 1960, had ac­cel­er­ated Lloyd’s rise by rec­om­mend­ing him as the re­place­ment for Eric Dol­phy in Chico Hamil­ton’s ad­ven­tur­ous en­sem­ble.

Lloyd ded­i­cated two of his orig­i­nals to Col­lette: the wist­ful opener “Re­quiem” and later, switch­ing to alto flute, the pon­der­ing “Be­yond Dark­ness,” with its dis­tant African mem­o­ries.

Now 72, Lloyd blew with a glow­ing, trans­par­ent tone, a fresh­wa­ter flood of ideas, and a tran­scen­dent at­ti­tude draw­ing from his Vedan­tic faith, re­in­forc­ing his widely held rep­u­ta­tion as the truest ex­po­nent of 1960s-rooted jazz spir­i­tu­al­ity.

Lloyd em­braced the full range of his tenor — hunch­ing his shoul­ders to slide surely into the high­est al­ter­nate fin­ger­ings, drop­ping al­most to his knees to tear out huge in­ter­val­lic leaps.

The quar­tet breathed to­gether with a spon­tane­ity that would have star­tled if it weren’t so nat­u­ral.

Mo­ran ef­fec­tively melded his in­nate as­trin­gency with Lloyd’s beauty. His ca­ress­ing key­board touch helped his oc­ca­sional dis­so­nant touches match Lloyd’s own. Reuben Rogers wran­gled his up­right bass like an ana­conda, slip­ping from med­i­ta­tive still­ness to dirty Mis­sis­sippi blues slides, solo­ing with sto­ry­teller acu­ity and nail­ing his high­est notes with pre­cise in­to­na­tion. Drum­mer Eric Harland staged a show of his own. Tap­ping a tam­bourine or build­ing tu­mul­tuous polyrhythms, he kept the mu­sic ex­cit­ing — never set­tled but al­ways cen­tered.

Th­elo­nious Monk’s somber “Monk’s Mood” show­cased the quar­tet’s sug­ges­tive rather than groove-ori­ented in­ter­play, the fo­cus chang­ing from moment to moment. Be­tween his so­los, the lanky Lloyd, wear­ing a soft jacket and rose sun­glasses, strolled to the rear and ap­prov­ingly ob­served the oth­ers, hand over heart.

The quar­tet spread a less aus­tere ta­ble than on its ex­cel­lent new “Mir­ror,” in­clud­ing a ri­otous conga-line ex­plo­sion on the joy­ful “Passin’ Thru” (from the Chico Hamil­ton reper­toire) and a Ray Charles-fla­vored im­pro­vi­sa­tion on the African Amer­i­can church stan­dard “Lift Ev­ery Voice and Sing.”

When they closed af­ter nearly two hours with an el­e­gant, heart-squeez­ing ren­di­tion of Duke Elling­ton’s “Come Sun­day,” noth­ing more needed to be said.

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