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Jazz Spotlight

June 11, 1995|Bill Kohlhaase

CHARLES LLOYD

"All My Relations"

ECM

* * * 1/2

Lloyd's previous ECM releases emphasized his spiritual, introspective side as he floated tenor tones above often mystical backdrops. But "All My Relations" brings the saxophonist down to earth with a more aggressive stance, one that's a truer representation of his live performances.

The liner notes Lloyd wrote for the release, an homage to his inspirations and the Memphis scene in which he came of age, hint at his motivations. He credits Charlie Parker and pianist Phineas Newborn for molding his development and indeed, examples of Parker and Newborn's fire are here to be heard. Like them, Lloyd's up-tempo exercises have a crafted feel. He doesn't just release notes in technical flurries, but fits them lyrically inside the established context.

All this doesn't mean that Lloyd has abandoned his reflective side. Songs including "Little Peace," played on flute, and "Hymne to Mother," introduced by Billy Hart's spare percussive effects, find the saxophonist in a reserved, meditative state.

Pianist Bobo Stenson continues to be the perfect foil for Lloyd's stream-of-consciousness approach. His less-is-more accompaniment, often coming in off-beat juxtaposition to the saxophone, changes little as tempos increase, and his soloing makes for thoughtful contrast to the hurried pace. Likewise, bassist Anders Jormin is a selective accompanist, so perfectly present behind the horn that he almost becomes transparent.

At times, the more upbeat feel of the material imparts a glossy sheen, as in sections of "Cape to Cairo Suite." But Lloyd balances this predictability with staunchly assertive statements and a series of defiant, repeated phrases. His sizzling Chinese oboe lines add a decidedly Eastern feel to "Milarepa," and his flute work, coming in rich, airy tones, creates a celestial presence. This is Lloyd's most revealing work of the last few years and one that boosts his reputation as the most cerebrally rewarding saxophonist currently on the scene.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good, recommended), four stars (excellent).

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