Charles Lloyd & the Marvels: Tone Poem review | John Fordham's jazz album of the month

(Blue Note)
The third album in this partnership sees the tenor saxophonist deftly occupied in takes on Ornette Coleman, Leonard Cohen and the Beach Boys

In the 1960s, Charles Lloyd was a reeds-playing jazz-fusion star with a 21-year-old Keith Jarrett for a sideman and a young audience with psychedelic leanings. After a long midlife break from playing, he returned transformed in the 1980s with a poignantly personal sound on saxophone and flute; in the decades since, he has become one of jazz’s most cherished elders. Lloyd is 83 now and, like many original improvisers who have seen a lot of water under the bridge, he conserves his energies more these days. But his art has long inclined more to distillation than expansion – glimpsing the southern blues of his Memphis childhood, John Coltrane’s heart-rending tenor tone or Ornette Coleman’s bluesy skittishness, sometimes even the timbres of eloquent non-jazz singers such as his Greek friend and sometime playing partner Maria Farantouri.

Charles Lloyd & the Marvels: Tone Poem album cover.

Tone Poem is the third release by Lloyd’s country-steeped band the Marvels, featuring guitarist Bill Frisell – a fan since hearing Lloyd in the 60s as a teenager in Denver – with pedal-steel player Greg Leisz, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland. There are no singers, but the music constantly evokes the sounds of songs. Lloyd’s tenor is softly preoccupied on Ornette Coleman’s Peace, and he slews breezily across the free-harmony of the same composer’s Ramblin. Over Frisell’s boogieing groove, his quavering upper tone and squabbling whispers muse over languid country-ballad guitar harmonies on Leonard Cohen’s Anthem. Bola de Nieve’s Ay Amor! is a highlight, as is a grippingly dirgelike Monk’s Mood – but the standout is Lloyd’s homage to his old California cronies the Beach Boys, on an ethereally slow-burning bonus-track arrangement of In My Room.

Also out this month

Alone Together (Decca/Universal) is a classic-covers set from the rising young UK piano generation including Reuben James, Joe Armon-Jones and Sarah Tandy – spanning the 1920s hit Crazy Rhythm, through James’s fine reimagining of Duke Ellington’s In My Solitude, Armon-Jones’s punchy account of Golden Brown and Tandy’s thoughtful investigation of Billie Eilish’s idontwannabeyouanymore. Gretchen Parlato, a unique vocalist whose soulfulness is a matter of delicate insinuation and airy Latin grooves, is at her understated best on Flor (Edition), after a six-year recording break. And Slovenian pianist Kaja Draksler’s exhilarating Punkt.Vrt.Plastik trio with bassist Petter Eldh and drummer Christian Lillinger mingles racing, strutting arrhythmic conundrums and bass-walking jazzy grooves on Somit (Intakt). Sharp-end jazz, but succinct, witty, and steered with awesome precision by all three.

Contributor

John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Andrew Cyrille Quartet: The News review – rolling coverage from octogenarian jazz hero
The 81-year-old drummer deploys crisp cymbals, hushed snares and even brushes on newspaper for this entrancing set alongside Bill Frisell, Ben Street and David Virelles

John Fordham

13, Aug, 2021 @8:00 AM

Article image
Johnathan Blake: Homeward Bound review – virtuosi jazz unit scorch and shimmer
Drummer Blake joins with Dezon Douglas, Immanuel Wilkins, Joel Ross and David Virelles to create enthralling post-bop, soul jazz and Coltraneian pop

John Fordham

05, Nov, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
Jeremy Pelt: Griot – This Is Important! review – a jazz album for everyone
Storytelling trumpeter Pelt boldly crosses genres and ages with agile contemporary bop, ballads and spoken word passages

John Fordham

26, Feb, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
Whit Dickey Trio: Expanding Light review I John Fordham's jazz album of the month
Drummer Dickey, saxophonist Rob Brown and bassist Brandon Lopez entwine in tidal ebbs and flows

John Fordham

29, May, 2020 @7:30 AM

Article image
Lucia Cadotsch: Speak Low II review | John Fordham's jazz album of the month
Cadotsch’s second album continues down an unusual path, combining her spellbinding singing with wayward improv

John Fordham

13, Nov, 2020 @8:30 AM

Article image
British Jazz Explosion: Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain 1965-1972 review | John Fordham's jazz album of the month
A wide-ranging compilation featuring Kenny Wheeler, John Surman and Michael Garrick kicks off the celebratory British Jazz Explosion series of releases

John Fordham

16, Jul, 2021 @8:00 AM

Article image
Maria Schneider Orchestra: Data Lords review | John Fordham's jazz album of the month
The US composer, bandleader and Bowie collaborator protests big tech’s invasion of our lives on this powerful new album

John Fordham

24, Jul, 2020 @7:30 AM

Article image
Marius Neset: Viaduct review | John Fordham's jazz album of the month
(ACT)
The Norwegian saxophonist and composer continues to trailblaze, here combining forms with intensity and brilliance

John Fordham

22, Nov, 2019 @8:30 AM

Article image
Stefano Bollani: Vars on Jesus Christ Superstar review I John Fordham's jazz album of the month
Bollani treats his youthful obsession – Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock musical – with a respect that does not limit his inventiveness

John Fordham

03, Apr, 2020 @7:30 AM

Article image
William Parker/In Order to Survive: ShapeShifter Live review – rattlingly rebellious avant-garde jazz
The quietly distinguished bassist steers his talented band through a dynamic fusion of classic and contemporary in this live set

John Fordham

05, Jul, 2019 @8:00 AM