Stunning performance in front of a huge audience at the open air Odeon of Herodes Atticus, as Charles Lloyd, uniquely-expressive saxophonist, and Maria Farantouri, Greece’s voice of resistance, come together. Friends for some years, this is their first recorded collaboration. Lloyd’s brilliant quartet is on hand - with Jason Moran in especially creative mode - augmented by lyra player Socratis Sinopoulos and second pianist Takis Frazio in a marvelous programme that includes songs by Mikis Theoedorakis, suites of Greek traditional music, Eleni Karaindrou’s “Journey to Kythera” and Lloyd originals including his classic “Dream Weaver”. “Athens Concert” is a major event, a very special live album indeed.
The distinctive cry of Sokratis Sinopoulos’ Constantinople lyra has previously been heard on ECM recordings of Eleni Karaindrou (The Weeping Meadow, Elegy of the Uprooting, Medea) and Charles Lloyd/Maria Farantouri (Athens Concert). The Athens-born Sinopoulos has played a key role in the revival of interest in the lyra in Greece, both in traditional music contexts and in the shaping of new music. Sinopoulos’s reflective compositions and yearning ballads on Eight Winds cede the central melodic role to the lyra, sensitively supported by the piano of Yann Keerim and the subtle bass and drums of Dimitris Tsekouras and Dimitris Emmanuel.
The December 1999 sessions that produced The Water Is Wide yielded enough material for a second album. Hyperion With Higgins is the result, and its title reflects the sad fact that Billy Higgins, Lloyd's friend and soul mate and the session's drummer, passed away not long after the music was put to tape. The music's spiritual quality is heightened by the after-the-fact dedication. Quite unlike The Water Is Wide, Hyperion With Higgins is comprised entirely of Lloyd's original compositions, although the same lineup is featured: Lloyd, Higgins, John Abercrombie, Brad Mehldau, and Larry Grenadier.
At 74, American saxophonist Charles Lloyd stands more creatively tall and publically esteemed than at any time since his midlife comeback after a two-decade sabbatical. These two New York shows are from his first celebrity years, in 1965, with Hungarian guitarist Gábor Szabó (Lloyd’s former partner in Chico Hamilton’s band), Miles Davis bassist Ron Carter, and the hard-hitting former Sonny Rollins drummer Pete La Roca. Lloyd’s enduring interest in Hungarian music probably began with Szabó, and the guitarist’s brittle, jangling sound often resembles that of a cimbalom or dulcimer on these six long tracks.
Saxophonist Charles Lloyd has been working with guitarists periodically since the 1950s: Calvin Newborn, Gabor Szabo, John Abercrombie, and others have played in his bands. On I Long to See You, he (with his stellar rhythm section – bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland) renews that relationship with two gifted players: Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz (the latter on lap and pedal steel). This program yields folk and spiritual songs, re-recordings of Lloyd's own tunes, a pop nugget, and a new original. In what feels like the input from the label, there are two guest vocal appearances to boot: Willie Nelson beautifully delivers Ed McCurdy's antiwar classic "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream," and Norah Jones.