Charles Lloyd & The Marvels ‘Tone Poem’ 2LP/CD (Blue Note) 4/5

Is Americana Jazz a legitimate genre? I honestly can’t think of a single reason why it wouldn’t be. A form of jazz music that equally draws from a range of quintessentially American musical art forms like blues, gospel and folk certainly makes for an enticing concoction, particularly when in the company of music by Charles Lloyd & The Marvels.

‘Tone Poem’ marks the new album from the legendary saxophonist courtesy of Blue Note Records and marking his third release with his new ensemble, The Marvels.

With releases dating back to 1960 – beginning with his appointment as the music director for Chico Hamilton – Charles Lloyd has subsequently amassed years of working alongside names from jazz’s rich lineage. Be it as a sideman or as a bandleader, Lloyd’s name became synonymous with his presentation of jazz through his own inspired perspectives. Partnering with The Marvels has helped to usher in an exciting new era for Charles Lloyd and one that openly facilitates his joy for collaboration – a collaboration of artists, thoughts and ideas, as well as boasting such distinct qualities that solidify his brand as a healthy slice of the aforementioned Americana Jazz.

Perhaps not even by a specific design, Charles Lloyd’s influences have always ranged from the icons that left their indelible mark on him at a very young age, including Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, alongside his passion for the blues and folk music. Since debuting with the all-star ensemble of The Marvels for their album, ‘I Long To See You’ (Blue Note, 2016), the collective has continued in that vein of expressing his expansive perspective of jazz with these additional elements all serving as a compulsory part of the mix. Even on paper – vocal contributions from Norah Jones and Willie Nelson as well as a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’ – the exciting scope of Lloyd’s inspirations are neatly established from the get-go.

The group’s sophomore effort, ‘Vanished Gardens’, would follow in 2018 and feature an even larger vocal presence this time from country and blues singer/songwriter, Lucinda Williams who meshed perfectly with The Marvels over the course of five of the album’s ten tracks.

And comprising the earlier referenced “all-star” ensemble that is The Marvels are long-time friends and collaborators Eric Harland on drums, Bill Frisell on guitar, Greg Leisz on pedal steel guitar and Reuben Rogers on bass. With an immeasurable wealth of experience between the musicians featured throughout, ‘Tone Poem’ doesn’t rely on outside contributors this time around, focusing on the unit itself over instrumental led compositions.

The playful nature of ‘Dismal Swamp’ ranks as an album highlight as does the charm of the album’s nine-minute title track. ‘Anthem’ serves as a great example of the ever-so-slight folk leanings amidst the collective and a special mention to the elegance of ‘Ay Amor’ which is just sublime.

His projects with The Marvels continues to provide Charles Lloyd with boundless inspiration for his albums, going forward, so it seems somewhat inevitable that the collective will continue delivering further slices of their distinct blend of Americana Jazz for some time to come.

Imran Mirza

Read also:
Charles Lloyd and The Marvels + Lucinda Williams ‘Vanished Gardens’ LP/CD (Blue Note) 4/5
Charles Lloyd New Quartet ‘Passin’ Thru’ LP/CD (Blue Note) 5/5
Charles Lloyd and The Marvels ‘I Long to See You’ CD (Blue Note) 4/5
Charles Lloyd ‘Wild Man Dance’ 2LP/CD (Blue Note) 5/5 & 4/5