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Sax spirituality meets intellect

Spirituality hovers over a Charles Lloyd concert like a silver-lined cloud. All of the trials and tribulations that the legendary saxophonist has lived through in his long career have culminated in an ethereal quality that permeates his current music and performance.

There isn't much in the way of gut bucket growling in a Lloyd solo, but there is an intellect there that causes the horn to weave through the sonic tapestry like a fine gold thread dipping and diving through a fabric on the loom, a bit of audio weft binding together the aural warp provided by his fellow musicians.

Anyone who saw Lloyd at his Sunday afternoon concert can vouch for the fact that the band played more without Lloyd than with Lloyd, but there always seemed to be an energy guiding the musicians along a specific path. Lloyd would play his leads before sitting down in a chair as pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland took their solos and played with the composer's themes.

There was even one time where Lloyd walked off stage to look through a window at the snow-capped lawn and trees outside as Moran began playing a ballad. After a few minutes, Lloyd ambled back to the stage, picked up his tenor saxophone and entered into the mix. The result was not aimless, it was just there -- perfect in its execution and with no wasted motion, artistically or otherwise.

Most of the material heard in concert came from Lloyd's most recent album, "Mirror." There were plenty of standards, among them "The Water Is Wide," "Ruby, My Dear" and "Go Down Moses." All of the songs received lengthy treatments from the quartet, but it was in Lloyd's original material where he seemed to become most engaged.

"Tagi," the album's finale and the last tune played prior to the encore, found Lloyd sitting next to Moran at the piano for a brief spot of piano four-hand before going into a recitation quoting verses from the Bhagavad Gita while Rogers bowed his bass and Harland vocalized into a microphone as if he were playing a didgeridoo. In some respects, it was an interesting piece that focused on a spiritual aspect obviously important to Lloyd, but it wasn't exactly like hearing "A Love Supreme."

Lloyd's band played magnificently. Moran's touch was solid and unfussy with roots firmly in the Thelonious Monk school of piano playing, while Rogers and Harland were an impressive battery in tandem and in solos that were notable for their earthiness and invention.

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