Charles Lloyd: The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow review – sax legend shows no sign of slowing down

(Blue Note)
The octogenarian joyfully whispers and warbles his way through sublime tone poems, impassioned tributes and traditional spirituals with an all-star band

Charles Lloyd is the last man standing of an inspired 1950s American saxophone generation, which included his late friends and contemporaries John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, and the now-retired Sonny Rollins. He once recalled to the Guardian that the free-jazz visionary Coleman had told him in 1956: “Man, you sure can play the saxophone, but that don’t have a lot to do with music.” Lloyd has been searching the world’s songs for the heartfelt secrets beyond technique ever since, and his voice-like sound and intuitive ensemble communion seems to convey more with less with each exquisite new album.

The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow – new and old material played by an all-star lineup – is released on Lloyd’s 86th birthday, 15 March. Backed by pianist/composer Jason Moran, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Brian Blade, this set’s beautiful opener Defiant, Tender Warrior builds a bewitching trance from soft piano wavelets, growling bass accents and snare-pattern whispers before Lloyd’s breathy tenor long-tones and enraptured top-end warbles even begin. Monk’s Dance, a tribute to the pianist and composer whom Lloyd calls “the high priest”, opens on Moran’s free-to-stride piano whirlpools, setups for Lloyd’s whimsical lateral-bop sax solo.

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