As Charles Lloyd prepared to kick off a gig at New York's Blue Note club the night of Tuesday September 11, 2001, some murderous terrorists had some other plans for that morning a bit further south. The gig thus didn't begin until that Friday, and the wheels in Lloyd's mind kept on rolling through the aftermath, resulting in this double-CD album. Going his own way, he drew from public-domain spirituals, pop/rock songs, protest R&B, folk songs, and Ellingtonia and mixed them with his own compositions and meditations, assembling and reining in top-notch musicians like pianist Geri Allen, guitarist John Abercrombie, bassists Marc Johnson and Larry Grenadier, and drummer Billy Hart. The result is one of the most unusual and deeply spiritual recordings in Lloyd's always-unusual career, one that says more with fewer means. The leadoff track itself is an ear-opener, Lloyd's "Hymn to the Mother," which opens the gates with an Indian flavor, with its arco bass drone on a single chord and sitar-like articulation from Abercrombie. It's a miraculously subtle yet compelling way to grab your attention, like the introduction to a raga, thoughtfully sustained over 15 minutes. Somehow, the rest of the 130-minute album manages to maintain and develop the rapt atmosphere, reaching its central pivot of emotion three tracks into the second disc with the Coltrane quartet-like treatment of "Go Down Moses." As is often the case in a Lloyd performance, the tenor saxophonist is tempted to go to the outside, but usually in a gentle way, his head now in a thoughtful fog. Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" stays largely with the tune except toward the close, matching the haunted, dazed mood of the original. Billy Strayhorn is appropriately represented by "Blood Count"; Lloyd's own "Beyond Darkness" finds him on flute. Even "Amazing Grace," the over-exposed staple of every other folk or gospel revival, sounds fresh, devout, and genuine. Each disc concludes with something meaningful: Lloyd mourns alone and soulfully on "Hafez, Shattered Heart" at disc one's close and one more lengthy meditation, followed by an up-tempo release, "Prayer, the Crossing," ends disc two. Let responses like this from the jazz world be the real legacy of the aftermath of 9/11.
AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2