Charles Lloyd / The Charles Lloyd Quartet


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Late in 1967, bassist Cecil McBee left Charles Lloyd's band and was replaced by Ron McClure. The jazz critics and public alike all held their breaths, since Lloyd's band had taken the entire world by storm on the festival circuit; playing Town Hall would surely be an acid test not only of McClure's ability to fill such a big space, but the band's as well -- to see if the fire would continue to burn as it had previously. They needn't have worried. The gig, which is presented here as Soundtrack, stomps with all the fury of a live gospel choir trying to claim Saturday night for God instead of the other guy. McClure's particular strength is in his hard-driving blues style that adds a deep groove to any time signature or dynamic. And, judging by how deep Lloyd, Jarrett, and DeJohnette took their playbook, he was just what the doctor ordered. The band is in a heavy Latin mood, where the blues, samba, bossa, hard bop, modal, and even soul are drenched in the blues. With only four tunes presented, the Charles Lloyd Quartet, while a tad more dissonant than it had been in 1966 and 1967, swings much harder, rougher, and get-to-the-groove quicker than any band Lloyd had previously led. Most notable here are "Sombrero Sam" for its eerie yet funky flute solo (Hubert Laws stole more from this solo than he did from his flute teachers) and the revisited "Forest Flower," now entitled "Forest Flower '69." On the latter, the lovely swinging progressive jazz of the former is replaced with a poignant, torchy, bullish blues groove provided by Jarrett and DeJohnette, who trade time signatures all over the place as Lloyd tries to shove the mode along through no less than five key changes looking for the "right" harmony (they're all right). This band would split soon after, when Jarrett left to play with Miles Davis, but if this was a live swansong, they couldn't have picked a better gig to issue.

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