The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow

9/10 Stunning, devotional double LP from a living legend of the saxophone.


THE career of 86-year-old tenor saxophonis­t, †autist and composer Charles Lloyd is a long and fascinatin­g one. He grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was given his €rst saxophone at the age of nine and became friends with trumpeter Booker Little. In 1956 he headed to LA to pursue a degree in music, playing with the likes of Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry and Eric Dolphy in jazz clubs by night. A¡er California came New York, where Lloyd recorded his €rst album as leader, Discovery!. A fertile period followed throughout the rest of the ’60s and into the ‘70s, including a memorable set recorded at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Released in 1966 as Forest Flower, it became one of the most successful jazz records of the era, bridging a gap between jazz, rock and the peacefully stoned heart of the countercul­ture movement.

As the ’70s rolled along, Lloyd focused on transcende­ntal meditation and attending to spiritual concerns among the majesty of California’s Big Sur. He happened to meet and befriend the Beach Boys, forming a connection with them that led to regular touring gigs and studio collaborat­ions, including the beautiful “Feel Flows” on 1971’s Surf’s Up. Lloyd returned to jazz in the ’80s and released his €rst album for the cult jazz and classical label ECM in 1989, charting a path toward some of the best and most interestin­g music of his career. Signed to Blue Note in 2015, his latest album is this sprawling double LP, released to coincide with Lloyd’s 86th birthday.

Lloyd began to imagine the work that would become this album in 2020, deeply a ected by the state of a world irrevocabl­y shaken up by enormous changes. A new quartet was assembled to bring the music to life, Lloyd joined by pianist Jason Moran, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Brian Blade. Moran has been playing with him for nearly two decades, and Grenadier appeared on his early 2000s ECM albums, but this marks Blade’s €rst recorded collaborat­ion with Lloyd.

It’s a €tting formulatio­n for an album that mixes new takes of existing Lloyd compositio­ns and reimaginin­gs of spirituals with €rst-time recordings of six new pieces. The music is a contempora­ry take on post-bop with avant-garde †ourishes that sweep in elements of free jazz and spiritual jazz, adventurou­s while being eminently listenable. The songs feel like transmissi­ons from a gentler world, but it’s not all sentimenta­l, instead gesturing at a sharpness and depth that accompanie­s true understand­ing. It’s beautiful, but beauty can be painful, too.

The album opens with Moran’s piano setting a wistful tone that transforms into humility as “De€ant, Tender Warrior” progresses. “The Lonely One” boasts one of Lloyd’s catchiest sax lines, while the roving “Monk’s Dance” is, of course, a tribute to Thelonious Monk. “Booker’s Garden” is a reference to another jazz legend who had a big impact on Lloyd: the aforementi­oned Booker Little, who he knew from childhood and brie†y lived with in New York, prior to Little’s death at the age of 23.

One of the most intriguing new compositio­ns is the mysterious “Ghost Of Lady Day”, which opens with an enigmatic bassline from Grenadier and complement­ary piano from Moran. Two minutes pass before Lloyd comes in with his horn, a tender yet haunting voice that guides the song toward the burst of expression with which it concludes. Another new one is the 15-minute “Sky Valley, Spirit Of The Forest”, a sonic evocation of a beautiful place that holds importance to Lloyd’s wife Dorothy Darr. It opens with impression­istic piano that practicall­y tiptoes and as the song builds, the elements combine to conjure the sensation of tumbling down a forest glade, summoning the spiritual thrill of communion with nature. The album concludes with “De€ant, Reprise; Homeward Dove”, a vehicle for Moran’s contemplat­ive piano and the ever tranquil, agile grace of Lloyd’s horn.

Lloyd refers to his peers and mentors in the jazz world as sages who tell the story of truth and wonder. He is doing the same on The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow, an impassione­d and resolute statement imbued with clarity of vision, emotional depth and the hum of boundless creativity.

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