Charles Lloyd Quartet & Bennie Maupin Quartet

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Charles Lloyd (tenor sax / flute / taragat)
Jason Moran (piano)
Reuben Rogers (double bass)
Eric Harland (drums / percussion)

Bennie Maupin (clarinet / saxophone / flute)
Michael Lee Stephans (drums)
Munyungo Jackson (percussion)
Darek Oles (acoustic bass violin)


Reviewed by: Bernie Mulcahy

Reviewed: 5 May, 2007
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

Two US reeds-men who both cemented their reputations in the Sixties, Charles Lloyd and Bennie Maupin, led their respective quartets through a tantalising double bill served up at the Barbican Hall.

Making a rare UK appearance, Bennie Maupin opened his set on bass clarinet. Resonant tones laid down funky patterns, which were mirrored by Darek Oles on acoustic bass violin, before engaging in more interactive dialogue, driven by drummer Michael Lee Stephans and percussionist Munyungo Jackson.

Sure and self-possessed, measured themes left space for a sense of the spiritual. Occasional flurries of notes demonstrated dexterity. Pensive tenor sax and trance-inducing flute also featured, before the distinctly expressive bass clarinet returned as an anchor.

Charles Lloyd’s quartet setting recalled his seminal ‘sixties ensemble, featuring pianist Keith Jarrett and drummer Jack DeJohnette, both then still largely unknown. That ensemble’s recorded legacy includes the million-selling “Forest Flower”. His current quartet features virtuoso pianist Jason Moran, bass player Rueben Rogers and phenomenal drummer Eric Harland.

Lloyd took us through his meditative side, coaxing soulful nuance from every note on his tenor sax, before cannoning off into an ecstatic ebb and flow of fluid streams of dazzling improvisation. A charismatic and selfless leader, when not playing he was happy to stand at the back of the stage listening to and occasionally exhorting his fellow musicians.

Harland’s crashing waves of rhythm were matched by Rogers in depth and range, while Moran’s piano was as mesmeric and unpredictable as it was eclectic, moving seamlessly from funk to free jazz and blues.

Lloyd switched to the taragat (a Middle Eastern soprano saxophone) for a number that had a distinct snake-charmer feel, while his lyrical flute playing was imbued with a deep spirituality. Winding up the performance, he returned to the tenor sax to continue pushing his envelope of ideas on improvisation, rhythm and harmony, and send the audience out of the auditorium buzzing after the encore.

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