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Which Way Is East

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Album Review

Over two CDs, these recordings of Charles Lloyd and his longtime collaborator and friend, the late Billy Higgins, offer perhaps an even more fitting epitaph for the great drummer than the previously issued Water Is Wide and companion album Hyperion With Higgins, both with the Lloyd sextet. These sides were recorded just five months before Higgins' death. The music is divided into eight suites, and the two men pulled every trick out of the kit bag for these sessions. Lloyd mans his usual array of saxophones and flutes as well as sings and plays taragato, Tibetan oboe, and piano. Higgins, on the other hand, in addition to his ever-dancing style of drumming, plays blues guitar, guimbri, various hand drums, and the Syrian one-string lute. The combinations are intimate yet the music is sprawling in its reach. Whether in duet or in the various solos included — notable is "All This Is That: Blues Tinge," on which Higgins plays a stellar Delta blues on acoustic guitar and sings — the notion that there are no boundaries and no time, that everything must get onto tape, is the pervasive m.o. Here are two men who know each other so well that the anticipation of utterance comes from the least likely sources. Egos have no place here, and neither does didactic discussion. Here, notions of song, tonality, sonorous expression, and spirituality are the guidelines for trying to get to feelings, nuances, and individual places that they've not traveled before. They succeed in spades. Despite its smallness and the quiet spirit that weaves these pieces together, there is crackling energy, humor, warmth, and a complete commitment to expressing what may indeed be beyond real expression. Not since John Coltrane and Rashied Ali's Interstellar Space — though they sound nothing alike — has there been a duet recording of such unfettered communication. Highly recommended.

Biography

Born: March 15, 1938 in Memphis, TN

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Saxophonist Charles Lloyd is a forward-thinking musician's musician whose supreme improvisational talents and interest in cross-pollinating jazz with rock as well as non-Western styles of music during the '60s and '70s established him as one of the key figures in the development of fusion and world music. Born in Memphis, Tennessee on March 15, 1938, Lloyd grew up surrounded by the vibrant blues and jazz scenes of his native city. Given a saxophone at age nine, Lloyd eventually studied with Memphis...
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Which Way Is East, Charles Lloyd
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