Charles Lloyd is on the cusp of his seventh decade. By Old School thinking‚ the veteran multi-instrumentalist is five years overdue at the glue factory. Plenty of musicians with Lloyd's pedigree inspire the younger generation by resting on past achievements; not only does Rabo de Nube show Lloyd's far from finished with the shape of his legacy‚ it shows that musicians half his age inspire Lloyd just as much as he inspires them.
Lloyd operates in the clear on the opening of "Prometheus"-just a guy playing plaintive tenor sax on a street corner. But when Eric Harland adds shakers and shells to the background‚ Lloyd becomes a guy playing tenor on a blistering plain in ancient Greece‚ and the tenor's got some heat of its own.
Still‚ Lloyd is not a flag-waver. He doesn't shake the windows with blasts of cacophony just to make a point. Instead‚ Lloyd inundates you with runs and phrases that are sometimes cerebral‚ other times celebratory. He's just as effective when he switches from tenor to flute on "Booker's Garden"-a bluesy tribute to childhood friend Booker Little-and Lloyd's wild work on the tarogato drives "Ramanujan" into a tribal frenzy.
Harland is arguably the best drummer of his generation: He burns it up any time he wants‚ but it's his accent work that gets me‚ particularly his sleigh bells on "Ramanujan." Anyone who thinks bass solos are superfluous needs to see Reuben Rogers. His breaks are both substantive and lyrical‚ and his intro to "Migration of Spirit" is astoundingly expressive. Jason Moran inherits the piano chair from Geri Allen; while Allen acted primarily as Lloyd's foundation‚ Moran's estimable solo skills let him assert himself as voice and foil.
The chemistry on Rabo de Nube is formidable‚ but it is dwarfed by the mutual respect this explosive quartet displays. Combine those elements with musicianship from two distinct generations‚ and you get jazz that is exploratory‚ dramatic and eminently satisfying. Not bad for three young punks and a guy who shows AARP what living over 65 ought to look like!