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Charles Lloyd New Quartet at the Rose Theater

Published: 2011-01-31
Charles Lloyd Charles Lloyd's name alone might sell tickets as a symbol of integrity and spiritual health and every-man-has-his-season. A saxophonist and bandleader, he was a friendly and popular face of post-Coltrane jazz in the 1960s. Then he retreated for much of the next two decades, and came out the other side an elegant older man with a stronger, softer art.

But for anyone who listened hard enough to his concert at the Rose Theater on Saturday night, he was indivisible from his band.

Mr. Lloyd, now 72, is famous for having good bands. He hired Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette before they were famous, and since restarting his career in earnest in the late 1980s, he has led one impressive group after another. (He really did lead them: He's a meditative musician, light-toned but intense, who knows how to spread his patience around.)

But his New Quartet, active since 2007, is a different order of good. It has its own personality. It could spin off and stand on its own. The pianist Jason Moran and the drummer Eric Harland have known each other since high school, and the bassist Reuben Rogers has been moving alongside them in New York's jazz scene since the late 1990s. All in their mid-30s, they have their own language, articulate and intimate, itchy and soulful and often thrilling; it pours and pours and never goes dry.

Much about Mr. Lloyd's performance—his seven-grain tenor-saxophone tone, his restricted little slides and flurries through a melody, his preference for slow music—tells you that he doesn't get much joy out of wasted energy. Consequently, on Saturday his band played with presence and care. Mr. Harland, one of the best drummers you'll hear in jazz right now, acted as a clarifying force, articulating all his tiny strokes and clicks, whether in free or patterned rhythms. Mr. Moran, adept at the psychological tricks of jazz improvising—controlled dissonance, tension-and-release, building and withholding momentum—engaged the band and audience with his solos but didn't turn them into mere virtuosity. And Mr. Rogers boomed out his sound with bow and fingers, working to glue everything together.

The quartet played a set drawn heavily from its new album, “Mirror": mostly slow and roomy chunks of music, the better for Mr. Lloyd to wander the stage and encourage his band. It included a rapturous version of the Beach Boys' “Caroline, No," and a couple of songs that seemed to call for singing. For this concert, as with one at Wesleyan University two nights earlier, the group came with a fifth member, the operatic soprano Alicia Hall Moran, Mr. Moran's wife. She sang “Go Down Moses" and “Lift Every Voice and Sing," strong and controlled and complete. (Mr. Lloyd asked the audience to stand for “Lift Every Voice," but he allowed sitting. “I was old once, too," he said.)


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