Recorded in early 2002 with Geri Allen (piano), John Abercrombie (guitar), Billy Hart (drums) and either Marc Johnson or Larry Grenadier on double bass, this expansive double-disc set finds Charles Lloyd feeling rather pensive. Lloyd's tenor playing is deeply informed by a spiritual sense of loss that apparently arose out of the events of Sept. 11. However, "Lift Every Voice" is far from melancholy. As the album unfolds, Lloyd and his group move through various stages of a spiritual journey, using both traditional songs -- "Amazing Grace," "Deep River," "Go Down Moses" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing" -- as well as truly effective Lloyd-composed pieces like "Hafez, Shattered Heart" and "Hymn to the Mother." Though the overall tone is kept quite hushed -- thanks largely to Abercrombie's delicately bluesy playing and Allen's understated piano approach -- it's clear that it's a slow catharsis and the effect is reflective, rather than somber. Lloyd's gentle mastery of his instrument, combined with his uncanny writing abilities, makes "Lift Every Voice" absolutely necessary listening.
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