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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Flowering Of The Original Charles Lloyd Quartet


Gypsy '66

The Flowering Of The Original Charles Lloyd Quartet
Recorded In Concert
Produced by George Avakian
Recorded at Aulaen Hall, Oslo, Norway
Concert produced by Leon Garner in Association with Nor-Disc
Recording Engineer: Meny Bloch
Cover Painting: Jacques Richez
Cover Design: Haig Adishian
Backliner Photo: Courtesy of SAS
Backliner Design: Alyse Koylan
Atlantic SD 1586

Charles Lloyd - Tenor Sax or Flute
Keith Jarret - Piano 
Cecil McBee - Bass
Jack MeJohnette - Drums

From the back cover: A flowering happens once for every blossom. Happily, it is usually a gradual process which can be savored over a period of time.

For the original Charles Lloyd Quartet (with Keith Jarrett, Cecil McBee and Jack Dejohnette), that time was 1966, mostly in the course of three sensational European tours that won the group unprecedented critical acclaim which ever overshadowed its triumphs at American's leading jazz festivals; Newport and Monterey.

Beyond doubt, the original Quartet (a term which has come to encompass the 1967-68 group with Ron McClure on bass in place of McBee and the later change of drummer Paul Motain for DeJohnette) was a major bloom in the jazz garden. True, it was artificially nourished and force-fed by nimble promotion and publicity, but as with the hothouse orchid the product had to stand up on its own merits. And the Quartet did so splendidly.

This album was recorded in Oslo during the Quartet's third European tour. Its international flavor is underlined by the fact that the engineer was a recent emigré from Israel; luckily, we were able to communicate directly in German so that it was actually easier than working with a Norwegian engineer who might have required an interpreter. ( But come to think of it, Norwegians are not far behind the Swedes and Danes in making Scandinavia that part of Europe Рafter Holland, perhaps Рwhere one can most easily find people who speak English remarkably well.)

The album cover is painted by Jacques Richez, one of Belgium's leading design artists. Richez is, in fact, one of Europe's most imaginative designers in all media; he is also fan of such magnitude that he has sped to neighboring countries in his racing car to catch a performance by the Quartet, his mutton-chop mustaches flying in the wind. (For those who don't know, "mutton-chop mustaches" is a phrase invented by George Avakian upon first seeing Jacques Richez's splendid facial adornments.)

Moreover, the two compositions in the album which are not by members of the Quartet are by Europeans: Kurt Weill's Speak Low, which the German-born composer wrote for "One Touch Of Venus" during the American phase of his career, and Gypsy '66, Gabor Szabo's variation on his Lady Gabor, originally written for the Chico Hamilton Quartet while Szabo and Lloyd were sidemen in the group. Szabo's Hungarian origins are clearly reflected in this highly modal music.

As in other albums, the versatility of the Charles Lloyd Quartet manifests itself here in many forms. Equally at home in the blues, straight-on jazz and free-form improvisation, the Quartet often mixes all these diverse elements in a single performance, such as in the medley of Love-In and Island Blues. Keith Jarrett's piano ranges from the earthiest of old-time blues in the slow section of this version of Island Blues (even continuing in that vein against the increasingly abstract rhythms of Jack DeJohnette) to one of the most fantastically conceived and skillfully executed piano solos ever recorded by anyone in Gypsy '66. Jarrett begins this incredible solo with one hand plucking the strings inside the piano while the other chords on the keyboard. As this extraordinary conception develops. Jarrett begins to play more on the keyboard without discontinuing his remarkable harp effects on the strings. Lloyd, meanwhile, has picked ups the maracas, at the end of the final interlude that introduces the long coda, Jarrett can be heard playing the tambourine and a few runs on a soprano recorder; during the final vamp he plays tambourine and cowbell before retiring to close out the piece on piano.

The two versions of Island Blues (on opposite sides of this LP) also illustrate the variety with which the Quartet spiced its music; not only are the performances of the group's signature theme completely different as to tempo and interpretation, but Lloyd plays flute on one and tenor saxophone on the other. – George Avakian

From Billboard - July 31, 1971: An Oslo recording, made during the Lloyd Quartet's third European tour, it features the group and the sound that attracted the ears of the rock audience; Lloyd now has moved right over into the rock-jazz orbit (including singing) but here the jazz roots are firmly planted, particularly in the piano of Keith Jarrett whose roots many not go deeper but certainly are more exposed judging by the downhome blues riffs he shoots out. Producer of this early avant jazz is George Avakian.

Speak Low
Love-In/Island Blues
Gypsy '66
Goin' To Memphis/Island Blues

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