on October 18, 2002
This album begins unassumingly, but on a perfect note -- a few musings by pianist Brad Mehldau, then Charles Lloyd gently and lovingly playing the melody of Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia". Lloyd doesn't venture very far from the melody during his solo, but manages to extract something profound from this old classic. And despite all the comparisons to Coltrane, Lloyd's current playing is reminiscent of Stan Getz (with a dash of Wayne Shorter) more than anything.
The rest of the album continues in the same reflective mood. There are a couple of originals (including the piano-saxophone duet "The Monk and the Mermaid"), some traditional material (a drum-sax duet on "There Is a Balm in Gilead" and a gorgeous interpretation of the title track), and a few chestnuts by Ellington and Strayhorn. There are occasional instances of relaxed swing and bossa nova, but most of the pieces are ballads.
Billy Higgins, who would pass away shortly after these sessions, plays with incredible sensitivity; his drumming on "Georgia" is exquisite. John Abercrombie doesn't appear on all the tracks but plays beautifully. This recording would not be complete without the strong, resonant bass of Larry Grenadier and Brad Mehldau's rich piano playing.
I liked much of this album immediately, but it's grown on me even more in the past year. It's not flashy or innovative, but "merely" the work of 5 great musicians. I highly recommend this to any fan of John Coltrane's "Ballads" or similar material. More material from these sessions is available on the album Hyperion with Higgins.
on December 11, 2001
Charles Lloyd's superb 1999 recording (the first of two releases from these December 1999 sessions, the other, "Hyperion with Higgins" is equally engaging) includes an all-star cast and is simply sensational. Joined by the excellent Brad Mehldau on piano, Larry Grenadier on double-bass, John Abercrombie on guitar, and the late, great Billy Higgins on drums, Lloyd and company pour out their hearts and souls to deliver some of the most beautiful music from a quintet of this kind you will ever hear.
Beginning with a gorgeous rendition of Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia", the listener immediately knows what to expect from this album--sparse, melodic beauty. And it's captivating and engaging from start to finish. "The Water is Wide" is poetic and moving with Abercrombie offering just the right notes at the right time. Lloyd is inspired throughout and Mehldau's playing is typically melodic. Higgins keeps things moving and Grenadier is as steady as ever. The Ellington ("Black Butterfly" and "Heaven") and Strayhorn ("Lotus Blossom") tunes are highlights as is the haunting Lloyd/Mehldau sparing match in "The Monk and the Mermaid". In fact, the entire disc is essentially one highlight after another with no missteps to be found. Abercrombie is particularly engaging when he appears ("Figure in Blue", a Lloyd original is terrific), Lloyd's playing is trance-inducing, and these players seem to revel in the making of these inspired, often-spiritual melodies. By the time you get to the closing hymn, "Prayer", you will be praying for more music of this ethereal beauty. And thankfully, "Hyperion with Higgins" is sitting right beside "The Water is Wide" on the cd shelf.
"The Water is Wide" is one of the most sublime and stunningly beautiful cds I have heard in recent years. These musicians represent several generations of jazz mastery and together have made of cd worthy of their stature. Very Highly Recommended.
on June 13, 2001
The impression I'm left with from this fine music is that Mr Lloyd has come to terms with ...life? ... Art? ...God? With two thirds of the Brad Mehldau trio (youth) balanced by masters Mr Billy Higgins and Mr John Abercombie(experience) there is absolutely no sense of strain. The water might be wide but it is also deep. The spirituality and sense of communion and peace that suffuses this music is apparent in the verse, the programming and packaging of this CD. It opens with one of the most poignant of Mr Hoagy Carmichael's songs - GEORGIA - and who can fail to recall the emotional baggage that song carries, not the least of which is its interpretation by Mr Ray Charles. There is a homage to Ms Billie Holiday in a song by the leader called LADY DAY. There is Mr Strayhorn's LOTUS BLOSSOM and Mr Ellington's BLACK BUTTERFLY. It seems as though Mr Lloyd is paying homage to the roots of the music - spirituals, folk songs,the blues, pain, love and the black experience - through some of its major progenitors including the great bassist Mr Cecil McBee whose SONG OF HER is included. This is not to say the music is lacking in joy. FIGURE IN BLUE with its spritely rhythms is one case in point. LOTUS BLOSSOM too is liltingly, swingingly lovely. Mr Lloyd's tenor can sometimes sound as sweet as an alto but throughout there is a quiet, thoughtful, passionate and masterful musician at work here completely supported in his vision for this programme of music by his musicial compadres. In this music I am reminded of John Coltrane's A LOVE SUPREME, David Murray's SPIRITUALS and Mr Duke Ellington's inclination towards the sacred.
on November 30, 2000
WATER IS WIDE CHARLES LLOYD
Beauty is rare today, but when it is achieved it elevates us all. Water Is Wide is beautiful and its effects sublime. It awakens our silenced-longing for perfection. If you don't know jazz, but your heart soars with Puccini, alight here for it is as pure and simple. If you have no ear for music, but when the sky is bleak your mind returns to Wordsworth's spring, this too is poetry. If you don't have time for art, arrest your work this once. In Lloyd's measured line and economy of expression, you will find a profitable lesson.
Water Is Wide is a collection of ancient ballads, eternal truth composed long ago or now. The surprise is that no matter how far away you thought you were, the music is you. It comes from inside like the thread from the spool. It is meltingly intimate, unnerving in its candor. It is you alone and everyone. Lloyd slides, Higgins glides words between the lines, dancers from the corner of one's eye, and the sound permeates the mind soft as a night blooming fragrance. Abercrombie and Lloyd intertwine like a creeper and tree. Each pairing, Abercrombie and Lloyd, Mahldau and Lloyd, has the precision and courtly neatness of a double helix, nature's quintessential intelligence. The album fairly scintillates with rarefied intelligence, but what we see is loveliness. It is lovely in every gesture and flow. It is every noble emotion so tenderly and subtly addressed, our own experience with life is made more true and universal. If we listen to the ballads with our hearts there is a poignancy that quickens conscience. When we listen from our inmost self, there is silent rapture.
The compositions are so tightly integrated and the layering of voices so unerringly smooth and balanced that it is more a symphonic work than a compilation. It is as if it progressed in polished movements. There is a profound unity, the ocean in every drop. The restraint is more than minimalist; it is reverential. Even in the rise and swell it is a quiet and inward passion, and luminous, serene.
"Georgia" is mellow, suave, and classic. Each stroke is as intentional as the characters in a Chinese scroll. It is quiet, quieter, and quieter still, refining our perception. Grenadier and Higgins are sound on silence, white on lighter white progressing. Our senses awaken to the most delicate impulse and gradation. Right from the start Lloyd has orchestrated our way of listening so that, silent too, we will be able to discern and appreciate the subtlety in every subtle variation. This first interchange between Lloyd and Mehldau, piano, sets the tone that is, remarkably, sustained throughout. It is fluid, cursive, spare, and in its perfect sufficiency, most telling. "Water is Wide" is gorgeous. Lloyd and Abercrombie weave magic in the closeness of their sounds. The melody is luscious, pregnant with the promise of its poetic words. Grenadier and Higgins run as steady as a deep current. Higgins' command of time is always so inexorable, it is as if he were only giving voice to the rhythm already inherent in nature. The rhythmic precision of the entire ensemble has in every piece, burnished the music to a high, lyric intensity.
Lloyd's own compositions are as evocative as Debussy's, and they have the same sense of space. Lloyd has a genius for unfolding the potential of silence and emptiness. "Ballade and Allegro" in its flow and intimations is most subtly complex. Lady Day has the dignity of homage. "The Monk and the Mermaid" is extraordinary. It bends sound as water bends light. In the diffraction we see how waves of sound emerge then interact. It is a monk's witnessing of the play and display. "Figure in Blue" is tropic island Lloyd, warm, sweet as summer fruit, and as playful as only someone who can be immensely serious has the finesse to be. It is a tender wild.
"There Is a Balm in Gilead" is an outpouring of the deep love between Higgins and Lloyd, their complete knowledge of each other, and their combined lifetimes of knowing music. Higgins has the power of Zeus, commanding the thunder and the rain, and the weather of our emotions. Lloyd's tone is honeyed, amber. "Balm" is both exultant and solemn.
"Prayer" is the song of God. It is suffused with love. Abercrombie and Lloyd sing out its beautiful melody, but all of these masterful musicians, almost indistinguishable in their union, have been wholeness reverberating. "Prayer" sums up The Water Is Wide. It is not so much a supplication as a benediction.
The Water Is Wide is a work of great worth. I can only commend it to your attention with the strongest conviction.
on September 9, 2000
As a child of the 60s, I have heard Charles Lloyd perform live and on recording with many great pianists.. Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, later with Michel Petrucciani and eventually Bobo Stenson. What has been remarkable, for me as a listener, is how Lloyd managed to bring something special out of each of these great pianists, and now we hear him with Brad Mehldau. Dare I say that this is becoming my favorite?
I can't wait for the weather to change so that I can listen to this CD in the darkness and chill of the first winter storm. This recording brings such solace to an aching soul, so much light when the day is dark, so much tenderness to a world fraught with discord, confusion, and ignorance. I find it remarkable that not one of the five musicians seems to have anything to prove. Least of all Mr. Lloyd, who as leader of this ensemble, has created with a 'less is more' approach, a beautiful, complex tapestry of texture, sound, color, and tone - his saxophone remains a simple, but strong thread in the center of the weaving. A dimensional tone.
This is the first Lloyd recording that I can remember that has stayed so thoroughly in this balladic mood. A rather daring statement, and one that is probably not easy to pull off. Having read so many comparisons between Lloyd and Coltrane, could it be due to the deep spiritual pursuit of both men that one hears something similar in their playing? Maybe it is that spirituality that informs their individual sound. But, anyone with ears will immediately be able to identify Lloyd's singing tone, as distinct from Trane's. I love them both, but find them quite different from each other. What both men do however, is stir the soul and renew the spirit. And, I am happy the Mr. Lloyd is still among the living - consequently, we can look forward to other new recordings from him for many years to come (I hope).
It is wonderful to hear the ongoing collaboration between Lloyd and Higgins, especially as on Balm in Gilead, and I'm also glad that John Abercrombie was included. His playing on the Prayer is sublime, and that piece is a perfect finale to the recording -both men were on the previous Lloyd recording Voice in the Night. Larry Grenadier, who is Brad Mehldau's bassist in his trio, gives a supporting foundation - and while the ensemble playing is on such a high level, words fail me when it comes to describing the duo between Lloyd and Mehldau on The Monk and the Mermaid.. an incredible journey through conversation. This recording is a must for any music lover who wants to dive well below the surface. That means jazz, classical, country or rock. This is the real thing, don't miss it!
on August 31, 2000
The good news is that this is only the first of two planned recordings (according to ECM Records) culled from what were some remarkable sessions recorded in Los Angeles during December of 1999.
Continuing along with guitarist John Abercrombie and the one and only Billy Higgins on drums (both contributed mightily to last year's wonderful 'Voice in the Night'), this outing also includes Larry Grenadier on bass and (my personal favorite among the younger pianists) Brad Mehldau.
This recording maintains the high level of Lloyd's 1990's ECM recordings and underscores Lloyd's standing as one of the handful of really original stylists working in music. Utterly recognizable from the get go, Lloyd possesses a lovely, burnished sound, soulful to be sure.
Grenadier is (as always) dead on. Abercrombie plays beautifully throughout and his solo on 'The Water is Wide' is worth the price of the CD itself. Mehldau seems a natural for this music. Possessed of a remarkable touch and a maturity which belies his relative youth, Mehldau, like Lloyd is adept at creating atmosphere. Surrounding his notes with a great deal of space, his playing is very much from the 'less is more' school.
But finally this CD really serves to highlight the musicianship and spirit of Billy Higgins. Few musicians can do more with less than Higgins. With the slightest of gestures Higgins provides a flowing and elegant pulse to the proceedings; subtle and seemingly effortless. The sort of understatement only a real master can provide.
I had the good fortune to hear Lloyd and Higgins perform a series of duets a couple of years ago and what an astonishing evening of music that was. Until that combination makes it onto CD this will do nicely.
on August 29, 2000
A very fine but not superior entry in the Lloyd ECM series. Charles is in excellent form, as are Larry Grenadier on bass and the incomparable Billy Higgins on drums. More problematic is the highly talented Brad Mehldau, who reveals somewhat indifferent supporting skills when backing up Lloyd. The pianist's own solo work is superb, as usual. John Abercrombie is just OK; in the Lloyd context, he's been heard to better effect on "Voice In The Night." Start with that one or the amazing "Notes From Big Sur" for the best contemporary sampling of Charles Lloyd's floating, lyrical, yet edgy and searching tenor sax style and ensemble work that is truly sublime. If you're already a fan of Charles Lloyd, you need no coaxing to pick up this new one.
on August 25, 2000
One of the most original minds in jazz teams with master drummer Billy Higgins (an old friend & collaborator) and two men half their age -- Brad Mehldau and Larry Grenadier. And if that's not enough to float your boat, John Abercrombie's on board too.
Lloyd's known as a prolific composer but here the tenor saxophonist plays a lot of other people's ballads, covering Hoagie Carmichael's "Georgia" a whole lot of Ellington and the celtic folk song "The Water Is Wide." Even when he's covering, he sounds like only Lloyd can -- tuned into something deep and wild and joyful.
on January 26, 2004
So anyway, bought this on a whim last summer. It came out on the mailboat. Threw it into the player. Suddenly the field station was silent except for the music & the waves -everyone dropped everything just to listen. "I almost feel like this is too grown-up for us" said Karen. Maybe so, Lloyd and co. have taken some simple classics & turned them into something that goes so much further, velvet night & smokey rooms & the wind on the water. I find myself coming back again and again to this album. You will too.
on August 22, 2015
Check out the date of this CD, 2000. The players are fabulous, in particular, Brad Mehldau. I heard him a few years ago and failed to be impressed. Looking back and hearing him more recently, I realize now that I hadn't caught on to how understated his playing is. Charles LLoyd is a quiet force of nature. He played in Toronto this Summer with a wonderful group of young guys and I had in my ears his playing of "What's Goin' On" (from another CD). Listen to that and you will be hooked.