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Tuesday, 21 May 2013 07:30

Charting the Music: Charles Lloyd and Jason Moran, 'Hagar's Song'

Charting the Music: Charles Lloyd and Jason Moran, 'Hagar's Song' flickr.com/photos/volume12/2763227411 / Bruno Bollaert
Written by Travis Dettmann
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Emerging from the place classical influences collide with free-form jazz, Charles Lloyd and Jason Moran form the perfect pair. "Hagar's Song" turns the phrase "ordinary jazz" into an oxymoron.

Six years of composing and companionship proves victorious as "Hagar's Song" wins the hearts and souls of listeners. Lloyd and Moran's intriguing interpretations of Bob Dylan and the Beach Boys comfortably coincide with original compositions, effortlessly creating an all-ages affair.

88.1 KDHX chart position: #5 Jazz for the week of May 14, 2013.

Record label, release date and producer: ECM Records released "Hagar's Song" on February 26, 2013; it was produced by Charles Lloyd and Dorothy Darr.

Can be heard on: In the Middle of the Night with Kevin Lawrence and Sound Salvation with Steve Pick.

RIYL: Paul Motian, Dave Holland and John Coltrane.

Hometown: Memphis, Tenn. and Houston, TX.

Standout tracks: While simplified in instrumentation, Ellington's orchestral piece "Mood Indigo" is taken on in a duo piano/woodwind format, packed full of immaculate improvisation. "Pictogram" beautifully blends free form chaos and originality. Brian Wilson's "God Only Knows" will never be the same -- in a good way.

The artists: Charles Lloyd began learning saxophone at the age of 9 and was playing around Memphis with artists such as B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf by his teenage years. He worked with Chico Hamilton as his musical director and served on Cannonball Adderley's quartet. In 1965, he started to focus on his solo work and currently has over 20 records under his belt. Jason Moran found piano at the age of 6. During his senior year at Manhattan School of Music, saxophonist Greg Osby had him join his 1997 European Tour; Moran continued to work with him until the early 2000s. In 2007, Moran first appeared on Lloyd's live recording, "Rabo de Nube," making "Hagar's Song" their fourth time recording together.

This producer: Dorothy Darr fulfills many roles in reference to Charles Lloyd's professional career and personal life. She is his wife and manager, while taking care of the photography and visual art for his albums; she has even filled the role as audio engineer on a few releases. Darr is also an accomplished architect, having designed some of the couple's residences.

This label: In 1969, ECM was created in Germany by Manfred Eicher. The label's recordings generally focus on jazz, classical and world genres. ECM has collected many awards such as Down Beat Magazine's "Record Label of the Year" for 1980, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Chick Corea, Paul Bley and Pat Metheny have all released efforts under ECM.

Play it while: Enjoying various fine wines while backpacking across foreign lands.

Awards and accolades: Charles Lloyd's "Love-In" and "Forest Flower" from 1967 charted third and sixth respectively on Billboard Jazz Albums. More recently, his 2007 album "Rabo De Nube" hit the eight mark. Jason Moran's "Modernistic" and "Same Mother" held the 19th and 12th position respectively on the same chart. "Hagar's Song" peaked at 11th and hit slot 44 on "Billboard Top Seekers."

What the critics say: "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." Chris Barton, Los Angeles Times.

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