Joe Lovano/Dave Douglas Soundprints Band plus Charles Lloyd Quintet – Barbican, London


The Barbican stage was loaded with jazz history tonight. First on was Joe Lovano’s Soundprints Band previewing their debut album, for Blue Note Records, of music inspired by Wayne Shorter. They hit the ground running with compositions by Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas, featuring powerful, adventurous and melodic statements from the leaders, while the exemplary rhythm section of Linda Oh and Joey Baron demonstrated how effortlessly they could turn a groove around on a dime in the best tradition of Miles’ classic 1960s band.

Two works specially donated by Shorter followed, with long melodic contours reminiscent of his work with Weather Report; the band demonstrated their complete mastery of contemporary language, while traces of everything from the swinging funk of New Orleans to the joyous freedom of Ornette Coleman were bubbling just beneath the surface.

If Lovano’s set seemed to look both forwards and backwards along the timeline of jazz, Charles Lloyd and his uncannily telepathic band created a feeling of timelessness. Lloyd’s quartet was augmented with traditional Greek and Hungarian instruments, which added a haunting emotional depth as the music in this single continuous performance ebbed and flowed, drawing back to expose the archaic lament of the lyra, the stark, mittel-european tone of the cymbalom, or Eric Harland’s elementally explosive drum solo.

A gnomic figure in hat and sunglasses, Lloyd stalked the stage, his saxophone ever present to lead the turning of the tide or comment on the unfolding drama, throwing out fragments of melody or intense abstract explorations. His tone seemed to combine the gravity of Coltrane with the pellucid lightness of Getz in a truly remarkable performance packed with allusion, which nonetheless seemed as weightless as a feather. A rapturous standing ovation from the crowd drew this year’s festival to its close.

– Eddy Myer