Hagar’s Song

The last time I saw Charles Lloyd perform live was nearly four decades ago at an otherwise forgotten concert in San Francisco. But my memory took a snapshot of the innovative horn player that remains vivid—a young guy in a brilliantly colored dashiki, with his Afro, as big as a bushel basket, being buffeted by the breeze blowing through the Golden Gate. The sounds from his horn that day were like aural sunshine. Much to my amazement, that young sax player is now 75 years old, and he teams up here with the superb pianist, Jason Moran, to revisit some jazz standards and a few new compositions. Lloyd sounds as good as he did back then, turning in some fine new variations on tunes like “Mood Indigo” and “You’ve Changed,” while also shining new light on Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.” The album is named for a suite of songs at its center that are devoted to Lloyd’s great-great-grandmother, a woman born into slavery and snatched from her parents when she was 10 to be sold to another slave owner. The pain, and the hope, can still be heard in Lloyd’s hymn to that dark past.