All My Relations
Charles Lloyd saxophone, flute, chinese oboe
Bobo Stenson piano
Anders Jormin double-bass
Billy Hart drums
Recorded July 1994 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Memphis-born wonder Charles Lloyd hit his stride in the 1990s, during which time ECM’s microphones were open to him, catching every glorious note before it could spin into the ether, never to be heard again. The Coltrane comparisons so often made in regard to his playing are more than justified on this especially bright, sometimes boppish, session, which like its cover speaks in bold contrasts of red, white, and gray. Not only does Lloyd blast his colorful invention in cuts like “Piercing The Veil,” “Evanstide, Where Lotus Bloom,” and the anthemic title track with the conviction of a prophet, but along the way finds himself in superb kinship. Bassist Anders Jormin always manages to find room where there seems to be none, not so much inserting as painting his lines into an intimate canvas, as if by the tip of Dali’s moustache, thereby rendering the darkened waters into which Lloyd prefers to deploy his emotional vessels. Pianist Bobo Stenson is equally present. His gorgeous spate of calypso magic in “Thelonious Theonlyus” and luscious soloing in “Cape To Cairo Suite (Hommage To Mandela)” are the life-giving water to Lloyd’s arid valley. In both Lloyd shoulders stories of unerring ingenuity, stringing dances of hope on their way toward rapture. This leaves drummer Billy Hart, who brings a ceremonial edge to the proceedings. In those two tracks for which Lloyd swaps his brass for flute (“Little Peace”) and Chinese oboe (“Milarepa”), Hart flickers, a tranquil flame of justice, spreading decks of cards to reveal an unpretentious flush, luring shadows and breathing energy into a gunmetal sky. So does this quartet begin on earth and end in heaven.
Yet more powerful than the execution is the content: themes and interpretations spun from a spiritually potent mind. And so, it is Lloyd to whom we return. He catches every tiger by the tail, blowing with an unwavering willingness to look beyond his licks and into the sun that grows them. From the way his sound circles the center here, one can feel his horn swaying, loving, speaking. All My Relations is a celebration not only of roots, but also of the branches and leaves that would be nothing without them. Want to know what mastery feels like? Look no further.