Charles Lloyd Group plus Joe Lovano/Dave Douglas Barbican, 23 November 2014

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The last evening of the EFG London Jazz Festival 2014 was a fitting end to what has been a diverse ten days. With an almost full house, the audience poured in from the cold damp outside in eager anticipation of hearing two saxophone giants in new contexts, Charles Lloyd in ‘Wild Man Dance Suite’ and Joe Lovano in ‘Sound Prints’. What followed were two extraordinarily balanced and sophisticated sets.

Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas formed the group ‘Sound Prints’ in 2012, with the idea of performing music inspired by the work of Wayne Shorter. With interactive free moments as interludes to more structured tunes, each band member contributed equally to this set - as did Wayne Shorter, who had composed two songs specially for the ensemble. Throughout the set, Lovano and Douglas moved from playing sweet melodic lines in harmony, to collectively improvising in a chaotic and haphazard way. Grooves from Joey Baron frothed and fluctuated; now slowly swinging, now plunging forward at breakneck speeds. The highlight of the set was Linda Oh’s rich bass tone and extraordinary musicality, truly deconstructing any notion of accompanying roles in this group. Each player came forward and receded cyclically in a kaleidoscopic journey, far from any predictable Shorter ‘tribute’.

The much-anticipated ‘Wild Man Suite’ followed displaying Lloyd’s characteristic hermetic approach to instrumental forces. Though the Greek lyra was harder to discern in louder sections, this set was notable for the equal space each instrument was granted. Often jazz musicians have tried to incorporate timbres from other musical worlds into compositions, ignoring the necessary acoustic considerations. ‘Wild Man Suite’, however, showed how the virtuosic stylings of Lukacs (cimbalom), the melancholy of Sinpolous’ lyra, Clayton’s sensitive accompaniment, amongst the remarkable musicianship of Lloyd, Harland and Sanders could all be housed under one roof.

– Cara Stacey