By nature, duet recordings are all about limitations, and an exercise in trying to say more with less. This month marked a pair of high-profile recordings between saxophone and keyboard, and the results are as distinctive as they are rewarding.
Say what you will about Charles Lloyd, but the guy has exquisite taste in piano players. Over a career that began as a member of Gerald Wilson's band in the '50s, Lloyd has recorded with Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau and, in an album-length pairing that coincides with Lloyd's 75th birthday, Jason Moran, who has been part of Lloyd's regular quartet for several years. Meeting on what often feels like equal footing, the results are akin to overhearing a conversation between two voices that feels both intimate yet readily approachable.
Lloyd and Moran are sympathetic partners in reworking jazz standards, as with a contemplative take on Billy Strayhorn's "Pretty Girl" and a slippery run through Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo" that rolls out of a bluesy turn from Moran. A pair of more modern pop classics close the record in a shimmering tribute to the Band's Levon Helm with "I Shall Be Released" and a sensitively drawn run through the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows." But Lloyd's own compositional voice often shines brightest, such as with the abstract rumble of "Pictogram" and the rich, five-part "Hagar Suite," which features the disc's most atmospheric moments with the saxophonist switching to flute as Moran matches him each step of the way.