Many critics have opined that Lloyd's 'New Quartet,' with Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland may be the best of all his groups. The quartet's previous release in this line-up, the live-recorded Rabo de Nube, met with across-the-board approval and was voted #1 album of the year in both the Critics and Readers Polls of JazzTimes.
Mirror is the first studio album by the Lloyd-Moran-Rogers-Harland unit and it features beautiful, transformed versions of favorites including both Lloyd originals and tunes Charles has made his own over the years. There is a pair of Thelonious Monk tunes, 'Ruby, My Dear' and 'Monk's Mood,' as well as hymns and traditionals including 'Go Down Moses,' 'Lift Every Voice And Sing,' and 'The Water Is Wide.' Lloyd covers Brian Wilson's' 'Caroline, No' (the saxophonist guested on several Beach Boys albums in the 70s, including the classic Surf's Up), and plays an achingly lovely version of the the standard 'I Fall In Love Too Easily.' Lloyd originals include 'Desolation Sound,' 'Mirror,' 'Tagi' (which includes a Bhagavad Gita inspired spoken-word meditation by Lloyd) and Being and Becoming."
The band plays superbly. Interaction between Jason Moran and the elastic rhythm section of Harland and Rogers is agile and alert in every moment. While each of these three players is completely in tune with Lloyd's way of working, none of them had yet been born when Charles had his idiomatic breakthrough with Forest Flower in 1967. Moran recalls that his father encouraged him to listen to Forest Flower when he was just starting to check out jazz, and the album was part of the soundtrack of his childhood.
There is plenty of Lloyd's graceful, mellifluous and poetic tenor sax: We also get to hear some of his rarely-showcased alto saxophone, the instrument that Billy Higgins called Charles's secret weapon."
Charles is playing really beautiful," Ornette Coleman says, in the documentary film The Monk and the Mermaid. He's expressing the qualities of what we experience. Trying to make a contribution to the quality of life, to do with knowledge." The knowledge, experience, and wisdom conveyed through Lloyd's tender saxophone soliloquies have drawn great musicians to him over the decades, and contributed to a reputation as one of the most insightful band leaders in all of jazz. Those qualities are reflected once more in Mirror, which is perhaps as succinct a portrait of Charles' music as can be embraced by a single disc.
Charles approaches the music with such openness," pianist Jason Moran said recently I like playing with leaders who let you bring what you've got to the table, and interpret the music however you'd like. Charles is a great promoter of free-thinking music, and letting it develop on the spot."
Reuben Rogers was born in the Virgin Islands and grew up listening to calypso and reggae as well as jazz, exposure that seems to have impacted on the lyrical dancing swing of his bass playing. He works exceptionally well with Harland, exploring loose grooves behind Lloyd's solos, and speaks of the joy of being in the music in the moment," when the Lloyd band is improvising collectively, without any worries, just giving it all." A much sought after sideman, Reuben has also worked extensively with Nicholas Payton, Joshua Redman, Dianne Reeves and more.
Eric Harland is increasingly regarded as one of the most important contemporary jazz drummers. In addition to his work with Lloyd in the quartet and in the Sangam trio (with Zakir Hussain) he has played and recorded with McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, Greg Osby, Dave Holland and many others.