Charles Lloyd: Jumping the Creek (ECM 1911)

Jumping the Creek

Charles Lloyd
Jumping the Creek

Charles Lloyd tenor and alto saxphones, taragato
Geri Allen piano
Robert Hurst double-bass
Eric Harland drums, percussion
Recorded January 2004 at Cello Studios, Los Angeles
Engineer: Talley Sherwood
Produced by Dorothy Darr and Charles Lloyd

Jumping the Creek fronts Charles Lloyd in a marvelous quartet of Geri Allen (retained from the Lift Every Voice sessions) on piano, Robert Hurst on bass, and Eric Harland on drums. The Memphis-born reed man’s 11th album for ECM is filled with magical realism, fleshed out most vividly in Allen’s overtime at the keyboard. He and Hurst often play the part of rhythm section, detailing the stone-skipping exchanges between Lloyd and Harland of “Ken Katta Ma Om,” for which he hollows out a melodic cave for Lloyd to throw his torch into, and the briefer though no less verdant passage of “Angel Oak Revisited.” Whether painting a Jackson Pollock bramble of layers or framing the band in the open geometries of a Sol LeWitt cube, he is a vital presence on this date of hip triangulations.

None of this diminishes Hurst’s own contributions, which bear bushels of sonic fruit throughout. He integrates masterful subtleties into the weave of the title track, bridging Lloyd and Harland’s crosstalk into closure; solos persistently and evocatively in the marvelous “Georgia Bright Suite;” and duets sagely with Lloyd on tárogató in “The Sufi’s Tears.” For each he impacts miles of energy in few footsteps. Duo energies go deeper in the subdued glory of “Canon Perdido” and “Both Veils Must Go,” each an expansion of Lloyd’s improvisatory mission with Harland. There is a sense of belonging here.

Rounding out the set are a veiled take on Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” (one of only two not penned by the bandleader) and two epic tracks. “Song of the Inuit” ends with an elemental catalogue, which like the “Georgia Bright Suite” unpacks a fascinating attic of curios. An animated solo from Lloyd pains a night breeze and the leaf that trembles by its touch, with no other dream but to fall. Yet nothing here is so all-encompassing as the leadoff track by Belgian songwriter Jacques Brel. “Ne Me Quitte Pas” reduces Byzantine touches and less intimate cascades in a crucible of undulating development, shoring up the album’s levees with long and song.

Jumping the Creek sails oceans of memory as if they were the future, nakedly and freely. Throughout, Lloyd hangs by a thread that, while thin, tethers his playing to unseen spirit, moving as one might whisper—which is to say, with grace.

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