(Visual) Notes on Culture
  Concert Review: Sangam 11/08/06
Coolidge Theater, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Charles Lloyd – flute, sax, piano, percussion
Zakir Hussain – tabla, vocals, percussion
Erik Harland – drums, vocals, piano

Seeing as concert in the Coolidge Theater is a bit of a bizarre experience. The room is obviously multipurpose, seemingly more geared toward lecture tours and archival film screenings than live music. The stage itself is a small space with pseudo-illusionistic decorum that recalls a mix of Inigo Jones’ stage designs and Colonial Williamsburg. The theater staff seems to regularly work at the library, but the transition from reference assistant to usher is a bit uneasy – the noisy crowd was still shuffling in the door as Charles Lloyd began his solo musings on the piano.

Charles Lloyd was once the most popular bandleader in the world. His seminal work from 1966-1972 remains some of the best of the century, making the giant steps of Coltrane, Davis, and Coleman accessible to the open-minded masses. Lloyd’s bands were among the first jazz acts to cross-polinate into Billy Graham’s Fillmore West, opening for folk and psychedelic groups. He self-consciously disappeared into obscurity for a time, emerging with a renewed zeal but an erratic touring ethic. He has been quite prolific of late, largely due to his current, inspiring lineup.

Lloyd launched Sangam’s set with solo piano work, later joined by Hussain and Harland. Harland and Lloyd played a rotating game, as a solid wall of rhythm (Hussain’s tables, Harland on vamping piano, Lloyd commandeering Harland’s drums) eventually yielded to a pastoral flute sequence.

The group played several recognizable pieces, a few of which are off their recent SANGAM album. I swear I heard Lloyd’s seminal “Forest Flower” in the mix at one point. Lloyd’s on-stage animation (he jerks about and high-steps while playing) complimented the playfully dueling percussive sensibilities of Harland and Hussain. The group played a highly cerebral set, brimming with vitality and confirming Harland as a star to be watched (Lloyd also affectionately informed the audience that it was Harland's birthday).
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