Charles Lloyd – Manhattan Stories – Resonance HCD 2016, 42:35, 42:13 (2-CD set) 1965 [9/16/14] ****:
(Charles Lloyd – saxophone and flute; Gabor Szabo – guitar; Ron Carter – bass; Pete La Roca Sims – drums)
George Klabin and Zev Feldman have done it again. They are due a special jazz Grammy for continuing to put out previously unreleased incredible live performances from jazz masters that have historical significance. Their issues are presented in excellent fidelity for live recordings (many also issued in LP format!). It keeps jazz collectors happy to have new music from legendary artists, most who have passed away.
There have been CD releases from Todd Barkan’s Keystone Korner, from Freddie Hubbard, and the duo of Tommy Flanagan and Jaki Byard. Of even more significance have been early recordings from Wes Montgomery (Echoes of Indiana Avenue) and Bill Evans (Top of the Gate). Being released this month is a live recording of John Coltrane at Temple University.
Today we get the privilege to review two live sets from 1965 from the Charles Lloyd Quartet, which are the only known recordings of this particular foursome. Disc One was recorded at Judson Hall on Sept 3, 1965. It was personally recorded by Resonance founder George Klabin. Disc Two was also recorded in 1965 at the iconic Slug’s Saloon by a personal friend of Charles Lloyd, and comes from Lloyd’s personal collection of his live recordings. It also has quite good acoustics for a live recording from that time period.
There are only three tracks on each CD, and none are less than eleven minutes long, leaving the quartet members free rein to really stretch out. Disc One opens with “Sweet Georgia Bright” which has the most “out” playing by Charles on either CD. Pete Sims is locked firmly in the groove on his cymbals keeping pace with Lloyd as Ron Carter lays out a bottom layer for the group. A bit frenetic for my taste but a wild ride nevertheless.
Early on Gabor enters the fray and his guitar fills are welcome as he plays in counterpoint to Charles, before having his own solo. Next we have a gorgeous blues from Lloyd, “How Can I Tell You.” Szabo’s gently strummed guitar is a perfect match for Lloyd’s exploratory sax as Charles’ increases the intensity of his improvisation. The two seem to be having a conversation answering each other with their instruments. Ron Carter’s solo comes late in the tune and is extremely well upfront in the mix thanks to the editing and sound restoration of Klabin and Fran Gala. (The mastering for this set both on CD and LP was done by the legendary Bernie Grundman.)
“Lady Gabor” closes out the first disc. Lloyd’s flute playing is superb and he is like a pied piper leading his flock into a forest of exotic possibilities. Szabo’s guitar provides a Indian/gypsy flavor that is intoxicating. It is a real standout track that gets another ride on the second disc (and a minute longer…)
The Slugs evening on the second disc is a bit grittier, appropriate for the saloon. The audience is more vocal, and the sound more intimate. Lloyd opens with “Slug’s Blues,” likely an impromptu head improvisation. Charles digs in goaded on by Sims’ drumming, and a steady tick-tock walking bass of Carter. Gabor is in the background occasionally entering with his statements.
Round two of “Lady Gabor” is next, followed by the closer, “Dream Weaver.” That track is fascinating to hear as mid- tune it enters a free-form jam that strongly brought to mind an extended Grateful Dead psychedelic vibe. A little research revealed that Lloyd and the Dead crossed paths in the San Francisco rock scene of the late 1960s when Charles joined in on Dead jams with his flute. Szabo channels Jerry Garcia somewhat here about halfway through “Dream Weaver” as well.
Manhattan Stories is a welcome addition to Lloyd’s extensive discography. An added bonus are 34 pages of liner notes with contributions from Don Heckman, Willard Jenkins, Stanley Crouch, and executive producer, Michael Cuscuna. Several Mosaic photos are included. If you are a Charles Lloyd fan, this is a must-have purchase…
TrackList:Disc One: Sweet Georgia Bright, How Can I Tell You, Lady Gabor Disc Two: Slug’s Blues, Lady Gabor, Dream Weaver