Hagar's Song, from long-time ECM luminary Charles Lloyd, is an interactive duo recording with Jason Moran, the pianist who has been a key member of Lloyd's latter-day quartet (contributing to the albums Rabo de Nube, Mirror and Athens Concert) comes in time to mark Lloyd's 75th birthday on 15 March, 2013, and its centrepiece, the suite of the title, is very personal.
The 'Hagar Suite' is composed by the saxophonist and dedicated to his great-great-grandmother, who was taken from her home in south Mississippi at age 10 and sold to a slave-owner in Tennessee, who impregnated her when she was 14. "When I learned the story of Hagar's life it moved me very deeply," says Lloyd. "The suite mirrors the stages of her life; loss of family, loneliness and the unknown, dreams, sorrow, and songs to her newborn children."
The recording also features pieces especially dear to Lloyd, ranging from compositions by Billy Strayhorn ("Pretty Girl" a/k/a "Star-Crossed Lovers"), Duke Ellington ("Mood Indigo"), George Gershwin ("Bess, You Is My Woman Now") and Earl Hines ("Rosetta") to a standard strongly associated with Billie Holiday ("You've Changed"), Brian Wilson's most famous Beach Boys ballad ("God Only Knows") and a Bob Dylan song definitively interpreted by the Band ("I Shall Be Released"), played in memory of the late Levon Helm.
Personnel: Charles Lloyd (tenor and alto saxophones, bass and alto flutes), Jason Moran (piano, tambourine)
'This duet album places Lloyd's sumptuous tone, articulation and hypnotic melodic invention on tenor and alto sax centre stage, with Moran emerging as an eloquent and equal partner.' -- Jazzwise, (Stuart Nicholson) * * * *
'Lloyd's Hagar Suite is moving, but the real joy of the album is the duet's easy, affectionate way with tunes like Brian Wilson's God Only Knows.' -- The Daily Telegraph, (Ivan Hewett) * * * *
'Charles Lloyd's dry-toned sax and wistful flutes sit well over the resonance and rhythm of regular pianist Jason Moran's dark-toned accompaniment. Centrepiece is the atmospheric, spirit-affirming "Hagar's Suite".' -- Financial Times, (Mike Hobart) * * * *
'Lloyd invests his playing with a directness that transcends technique and can be deeply affecting. Moran is the perfect foil, with one foot in the blues past and the other in the abstract future, providing typically idiosyncratic but always intelligent accompaniment.' -- The Irish Times, (Cormac Larkin) * * * *
'The five-part Hagar's suite forms the centrepiece of this wonderful collection...for all its sadness the music is a joy.' -- Irish Examiner, (Kieran Bohane) * * * *
'Moran ably paces Lloyd in his more leftfield moments, as well as contributing beautifully to the lyrical ballads...and he has great fun with pre-bop styles on 'Rosetta'.' -- BBC Music Magazine, (Barry Witherden) * * * *
'The album is a testament to the sonic eloquence Lloyd discovered on his comeback via ECM at the end of the 80s - in haunting pieces such as Bess, You Is My Woman Now, the lovely ballad All About Ronnie and the distantly Ornette-like Hagar's Lullaby.' -- The Guardian, (John Fordham)
'Give it time and the intensity of the music comes through. Closing versions of Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" and Brian Wilson's "God Only Knows" are very moving.'
--The Independent On Sunday, (Phil Johnson)