This is music that should be listened to intently, as no amount of words can begin to describe the beauty and tranquillity found within.

Blue Note

Charles Lloyd (tenor & alto saxophone, bass & alto flute); Jason Moran (piano); Larry Grenadier (double bass); Brian Blade (drums, percussion)

Released on March 15th which will be the saxophonist’s 86th birthday this is an exceptional way to celebrate the occasion with this Grand Master of the music. Lloyd’s long awaited studio album, the first since 2017, does not disappoint. True to the saxophonist’s own beliefs and philosophy, The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow continues a lifetime of continuous development and artistic growth.

Compelled, Lloyd says, by the need to record again during the seclusion of lockdown enforced by the pandemic and personal frustration at the way the world was heading.  Due to global events in addition to logistics of getting his chosen musicians together at the same time and place, 2020 suddenly morphed in 2023 before everything aligned itself in preparation to go into the studio. In the interim, Lloyd had written six new compositions for the newly formed quartet to play.

Pianist Jason Moran was an obvious choice for Lloyd as the two had worked closely together and developed an almost telepathic rapport. Larry Grenadier came in on bass, another regular collaborator of whom the saxophonist says, “has flowed in and out of my music”.  The new kid on the block came in the form of drummer Brian Blade who Lloyd had been promising to work with for the last 25 years, but the pair had never quite enabled it to happen. That is until now.

A baptism of fire this may have been for the drummer, but he shows no fear on this wonderful double album. Listening intently, Blade contributes to the maximum whether playing or simply leaving space in the music.

All in all, there is just over 90 minutes of music spread over 2 CDs or if vinyl is this is your thing, filling four sides of a double album beautifully packaged in a gatefold sleeve.  There is never a dull moment or superfluous phrase or note, just musical poetry presided over by the saxophonist.

Lloyd’s saxophones retain an ambiguous quality that is at one full toned while also seeming to float over the sound of the rhythm section. The sound comes in waves, peaks and troughs, leaving a sense of wonder and time to ponder at what one has just heard before the next phrase is cast into the air.

The music is everchanging from the lovely piano introduction of ‘Monk’s Dance’ before moving towards a driving rhythmic piece with firm and decisive solos from tenor and piano. Lloyd’s flutes are then heard in a brief ‘Late Bloom’ prior to entering into ‘Booker’s Garden’ a delightful, vibrant and heartwarming dedication to trumpeter Booker Little with who Lloyd worked with in the 1960s.

Lloyd’s flute playing is also to the fore on the gently evolving narrative of ‘Beyond Darkness’, and this is followed by softly his spoken tenor on ‘Sky Valley, Spirit of the Forest’ that once again gradually builds the tension before being gloriously released by Lloyd. At fifteen minutes this is the longest track on the album, yet extremely satisfying.

Lloyd is adept at exploiting the dynamics and nuances in his chosen horns and does so to superb effect in the ballads ‘The Water Is Rising’ and the passionate ‘Cape to Cairo’, but trying to isolate individual tracks from the rich tapestry of music that makes up this remarkable set seems to defeat the object. This is music that should be listened to intently, as no amount of words can begin to describe the beauty and tranquillity found within.