Charles Lloyd & The Marvels, “I Long To See You” (Blue Note). Welcome to 2016, where the jazz elevator has already gone to the top floor once. As if the new year didn’t bring enough mind-boggling news on record with David Bowie’s haunting final record “Blackstar” with jazz musicians Donny McCaslin and Jason Lindner, here is a dream collaboration of a sort not that easy to imagine but hugely rewarding to hear. The main guitarist on this disc with pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz is the extraordinary Bill Frisell. It seems that Lloyd and Frisell first met in 2013. Not surprisingly, Lloyd says “we made a connection ... Bill is a great sensitive and very intuitive. When he was a kid in Denver, he told me he was influenced by my first band with Jack DeJohnette and Keith Jarrett. He said that music opened his imagination to a wide spectrum possibilities. We don’t need to say much when we get together – it’s all expressed in the music, the sound, the feeling.” Anyone who once heard Lloyd with Chico Hamilton playing with guitarist Gabor Szabo will have no difficulty recognizing a terrific neo-primitive fusion of rock and jazz that resulted here from Lloyd playing with Frisell and Leisz. It has been difficult to endorse some of what Don Was is doing in his precious stewardship of the once-sanctified Blue Note label’s legacy but you’d have to be more than a wee bit nuts to object to Lloyd meeting Frisell on disc, even if guest stars Willie Nelson and Norah Jones were all-too-obviously added for big pop sweetening. (Nelson on “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream” and Jones on “You Are So Beautiful.”) To revel in their obvious mutual love of American root music, Frisell and Lloyd play “Abide with Me” and “Shenandoah.” I wish drummer Eric Harland had been able to enjoy a freer role with the band that Lloyd understandably calls “The Marvels.” Even so, this is a nice little dream team to get 2016 boldface jazz stars started. Four stars.
– Jeff Simon)