Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Album Review: Charles Lloyd & The Marvels + Lucinda Williams - Vanished Gardens

Charles Lloyd & The Marvels + Lucinda Williams
Vanished Gardens
*** out of *****

On Charles Lloyd & The Marvels last album they crisscrossed the worlds of jazz, folk, r&b, working with both Willie Nelson and Alicia Keys. For this go around they keep their collaborator down to one as Lucinda Williams jumps aboard to reexamine some of her older tracks, some new originals (from Williams and The Marvels) and even a classic rock cover on Vanished Gardens.

The album is laid out with alternating efforts as Williams sings on about half of the tracks, the others are focused on the jazz players. Group director Lloyd uses both saxophone and flute to lead the way, often jamming in multiple chart runs over the more roots rock playing of the supporting crew who are pretty damn special. The Marvels are Reuben Rogers on bass, Eric Harland on drums and great guitarists Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz all expertly intertwining throughout the tracks.

Of the albums instrumental songs, opener "Defiant" showcases Lloyd's strong sax before a more relaxed south-western groove comes to the forefront via Leisz excellent pedal steel work. The albums title track is a bit more experimental as loops and digital effects are played with while "Monk's Mood" plays it retro cool. The melancholy playing during "Ballad of a Sad Young Man" weeps majestically while Lloyd's flute leads the late night groove session of "Blues For Langston and Larue" both proving to be the strongest efforts here. 

On the Williams sung tracks, the artist stretches out and enlivens "Dust" from 2016's The Ghosts of Highway 20 while new original "We've Come Around Too Far" expertly digs into gospel, connecting civil rights protests with a cool sax run. Unfortunately "Ventura" is a drag and runs long at six and half minutes without adding a whole lot of dynamics, better suited is "Unsuffer Me" which allows the rhythm section to set the pace as Williams digs in before the song develoves into a free form jam; the best pairing of players and Williams on the album.

The group closes the disk with a take on Jimi Hendrix's "Angel". It is a unique and engaging take on one of Hendrix's softest songs as Lloyd accentuates Williams vocals as Frisell delicately moves the six strings; it is odd that the group who happily extend every song before this one plays the straight ahead song closer to the vest.   

While far from a cohesive project and even without a standout reworking of a song, the music still remains engaging throughout with the talented folk and jazz worlds interlocking and separating when appropriate. Vanished Gardens is fulfilling listen for fans of any artist on the record or people brand new to all of them.
Support the artists, buy the album and peep some video below:

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