Hyperion With Higgins
ECM CD 1784, 2001
Tribute to a great jazz drummer
Dan Macintosh, 18 August 2002
Charles Lloyd's original intention was to dedicate this recording to drummer Billy Higgins' mother, Ann Higgins, since she had passed away early in 2001. But on May 3, 2001, Billy Higgins himself passed on. As Lloyd explains it in the notes, Higgins took these players on a "magic carpet to the hyperions," and there's no better way than that to describe this magical disc.
A good example is "The Caravan Moves On," which closes this disc with an eerie Middle Eastern feel, where Lloyd sounds like the absolute pied piper. Much like Ellington's "Caravan," it winds its way along at a comfortable traveling pace. Lloyd trades mystical melodic lines with guitarist John Abercrombie, all over Higgins insistently stepping drum beat and Larry Grenadier's rumbling bass. All along this 8:32 journey, pianist Brad Mehldau adds his own sand dune take on the proceedings with percussive melodic contributions. It's the kind of playing that opens wide the imagination.
Mehldau has plenty of opportunity to show off the wide range of his talents. For example, "Dancing Waters, Big Sur to Bahia" hearkens back to one of Monk's more mellow moods. With "Bharati," bass player Grenadier sets the table with both a melodic and rhythmic intro, which leads to a sexy turn from Lloyd. The title track is a swinging workout, which opens with Lloyd and Higgins playing off of each other for some spicy interplay. Higgins steals the show, though, as his inventive playing is all over the track.
It's the kind of playing that will make many jazz fans severely miss this talented man. But at least he left us with this magic carpet ride of a musical document for a fitting memorial.
performers Charles Lloyd, tenor saxophone, taragato, maracas; John Abercrombie, guitar; Brad Mehldau, piano; Larry Grenadier, double-bass; Billy Higgins, drums, percussion
production Produced by Charles Lloyd and Dorothy Darr.
songs Dancing Waters · Big Sur to Bahia (for Gilberto and Caetano) · Bharati · Secret Life of the Forbidden City · Miss Jessye · Hyperion With Higgins · Darkness on the Delta Suite · Dervish on the Glory B · The Caravan Moves On
of related interest
The recording sessions for Hyperion for Higgins previously generated Lloyd's The Water Is Wide (ECM 1734) which is also warmly recommended.