An auspicious return after a long hiatus, Saturday’s concert was either the 17th or the 18th time that Charles Lloyd has performed at the Lobero since his first appearance there in 1981 with Michel Petrucciani on piano. In a moving curtain speech introducing Lloyd, Stephen Cloud cited these facts and asserted that Lloyd is the most prolific performer in the history of the theater.
The opening of this exquisite set of music found Lloyd reflecting on three friends who have recently passed to another plane of existence. The first number, “The Dirge,” was dedicated to the great jazz promoter George Wein, and set the tone for an evening of relaxed, bluesy ballads interspersed with moments of upper-register intensity. Reminiscing about friends Phil Schaap and Mikis Theodorakis led to a cosmic version of the Theodorakis composition “I’ve Kept a Hold of My Life.”
Young drummer Justin Brown put in a terrific performance, bristling with invention and giving the others a continuous stream of rhythmic propulsion on which to draw. Reuben Rogers and Gerald Clayton are both at noticeable creative peaks. Clayton, in particular, was on fire all night, moving effortlessly from dissonant clusters to the most beautiful melodic statements. The encore, a stirring version of the Mexican folk song “La Llorona,” provided a memorably majestic expression of romantic individualism, jazz division.
Charles Lloyd, an international treasure, continues his journey as the greatest living exponent of the broad musical genre associated with the classic John Coltrane quartet of the Live at the Village Vanguard era. It’s a rich vein that holds endless possibilities for players of this caliber.