Zakir Hussain, Charles Lloyd & Eric Harland - photo by Michael Sherer
Atmosphere and cerebral/spiritual fortification are the first things I think of when I reflect on the excellent concert by the trio of saxophonist Charles Lloyd, tabla player Zakir Hussain and drummer Eric Harland. In the tradition of John Coltrane’s “Sheets Of Sound,” this group knew when to pour it thick and when to hold back and be very quiet and mysterious. Plus everything in between. While veteran Lloyd and the much younger Harland are more from a jazz-avant garde school, Hussain, also a veteran musician but not as far back as Lloyd, brings his spiritual, Indian background and excellence. All three men are very high caliber, and Lloyd plays piano and flute as well. He also makes some moody sounds on the drum set, and he and Harland switched places a couple times as Harland created moods on the piano.
The great Town Hall has pristine acoustics and sight lines, and every nuance is heard just right. It holds 1,495 people, opened in 1921 and is such a treat to attend. The stage set up was very simple, with a red and blue light beaming down from both upper corners. Hussain had an Indian rug under his row of tablas as he sat in front of them. I was particularly intrigued by the sounds he could get from his instruments and the total command he has over them, but again all three musicians are first rate and had a chance to really shine during their respective solos. Hussain used his own voice as well by chanting and semi singing into his microphone, underlying the performance with a spiritual, meditative force. Lloyd is quite spiritual as well, and while at the piano he recited an ethereal passage that was quite touching, humane and thoughtful.
They played for about ninety minutes with two encores. They embraced both times and the mutual admiration and respect amongst them was very apparent and entirely deserved. The audience was right in their pockets all the while. Bravo gentleman! Bravo!