The saxophonist, flautist and early global-music pioneer Charles Lloyd has been entrancing audiences worldwide for more than 60 years, as well as travelling widely in his own fertile imagination to cultures way outside his jazz origins. But the west coast has felt like Lloyd’s spiritual home since he was a teenager in 1956 LA, studying Bartók by day and jamming with the then undiscovered Ornette Coleman at night, or playing and hanging out with the Beach Boys during his midlife 1970s-80s withdrawal from jazz. In 2018, three decades after his triumphant comeback, Lloyd chose a beloved Santa Barbara venue close to his California home to record his 80th birthday album: 8: Kindred Spirits (Live from the Lobero).
The theme continues with Ocean, this month’s second release in Blue Note’s Lloyd-led Trio of Trios series, this time featuring west coast guitarist Anthony Wilson, and young Lloyd-devoted pianist Gerald Clayton – son of the famous LA bandleader of the same name with whom a teenage Lloyd played in the 1950s.
Space, reflection, respect, and devotion to jazz’s roots permeate this music. The Lonely One’s doleful tenor theme opens in purring dark tones, turning eventually to whooping free-jazz flurries while Clayton and Wilson encircle Lloyd with quiet Spanish-tinged countermelodies. Hagar and the Inuits is a skippily freeboppish Coleman homage, while Jaramillo Blues and Kuan Yin are both languidly rocking groovers, the first a vehicle for Lloyd’s vaporously swooping flute and his partners’ blues variations, the second a Latin-tinged showcase for his stealthy-to-gambolling tenor phrasing and improv fluency. Ocean is at times a quiet, almost private interchange, but a rich one.
Also out this month
Kokoroko, those vivacious young London alchemists of Afrobeat, jazz improv and eclectic composing resourcefulness, unveil a classy debut album with Could We Be More (Brownswood), 15 tight tracks embracing the players’ jazz, highlife, soul or reggae backgrounds, fused by the particular heat of London life. The percussive, vocally liltingly We Give Thanks and the warmly brassy Soul Searching are seductive highlights of a set that veers a shade close to the smooth and sweet for hardcore jazzers, but shows enough edge to invite the next generation in just the same.
UK journalist/broadcaster Kevin Le Gendre’s occasional Now’s the Time compilations continue with Fresh from Finland (Cadillac), a raft of Finnish new music from lyrical folk-jazz to funky electronica, free improv and adventurous pop/jazz vocalising. The 13 tracks include a wailing opener from Finland’s famous UMO orchestra, two appearances from prizewinning pianist/harpist Iro Haarla (she’s on piano with folk/improv trio Hot Heros and spacey harp with 86-year-old Finnish reeds great Juhani Aaltonen), and some ruggedly exhilarating piano/sax postbop from Riitta Paakki’s quartet.