Charles Lloyd – The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow (2024)

At 86 years old, Charles Lloyd, the legendary saxophonist, continues to defy expectations. His latest release, “The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow,” is a sprawling double album that showcases his enduring brilliance and his unwavering commitment to artistic exploration. This isn’t just a collection of nostalgic nods to his past glories; it’s a vibrant tapestry of new compositions, imbued with wisdom, emotional depth, and a spirit of boundless improvisation.

The album opens with “Monk’s Dance,” a playful tribute to Thelonious Monk. Lloyd’s tenor saxophone dances through the melody, his tone warm and inviting. Pianist Jason Moran responds with playful counterpoint, their dialogue a masterclass in musical conversation. This sets the stage for the album’s core strength: the exceptional interplay between Lloyd and his band. Moran, bassist Larry Grenadier, and drummer Brian Blade are more than just accompanists; they’re integral voices, pushing and pulling the music in unexpected directions.

Several tracks evoke a sense of introspection and contemplation. “The Water Is Rising” paints a melancholic soundscape with its slow tempo and Lloyd’s achingly beautiful melody. The rhythm section provides a subtle pulse, creating a space for quiet reflection. “Ghost of Lady Day” pays homage to Billie Holiday, a major influence on Lloyd’s own vocal phrasing. His tenor takes on a haunting quality, channeling the spirit of the blues legend while injecting a personal touch.

But “The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow” isn’t just about introspection. There are moments of pure joy and unbridled improvisation. “Cape to Cairo” explodes with energy, showcasing Lloyd’s fiery improvisation on soprano saxophone. The rhythm section provides a relentless groove, pushing the music to a frenzied climax. “Lift Every Voice and Sing” takes a surprising turn, starting with a restrained, almost hymnal passage before morphing into a free-flowing improvisation. It’s a testament to the band’s telepathic communication, their ability to shift seamlessly between moods and textures.

One of the album’s most intriguing aspects is the inclusion of two hymns, “Abide With Me” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” These familiar melodies are reinterpreted through the lens of jazz, creating a sense of reverence and contemplation. Lloyd’s saxophone soars above the gentle accompaniment, imbuing these traditional hymns with a newfound emotional depth.

The title track, “The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow,” serves as a poignant centerpiece. It’s a slow, meditative piece with a sense of acceptance and hope. Lloyd’s tenor saxophone weaves a melancholic melody, reflecting on the passage of time and the impermanence of life. Yet, the title itself offers a glimmer of optimism, a reminder that even amidst darkness, there is always a promise of new beginnings.

“The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow” is a challenging listen at times. It demands your full attention, rewarding those who delve into its depths. The improvisational sections can be jarring on the first listen, but they reveal their beauty upon repeated listens. This is music that unfolds gradually, rewarding patient exploration.

There’s a sense of nostalgia on the album, particularly in the liner notes where Lloyd reflects on his long career and the struggles he’s witnessed. However, this nostalgia never feels cloying or sentimental. Instead, it serves as a foundation for the album’s message of hope and resilience. “The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow” is a testament to the enduring power of music, its ability to connect us to something larger than ourselves and offer solace in even the darkest of times.

Some listeners might find the album’s length daunting, with two discs filled with complex compositions. However, for those willing to commit the time, “The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow” offers a wealth of musical treasures. It’s a masterclass in improvisation, a testament to the enduring power of a legendary musician, and a deeply personal reflection on life, loss, and the beauty of the human spirit.


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