Charles Lloyd & The Marvels with Lucinda Williams play Zellerbach.
The lineup represents a fearlessly creative collaboration that failed to resonate with jazz fans at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
The Monterey Jazz Festival is known for casting a wide stylistic net, presenting musicians from an array of jazz’s kindred musical currents, from blues, funk, and R&B to zydeco, salsa, and hip-hop. But judging from the reaction on the fairgrounds last September, there’s one particular tradition still received with a heavy dose of skepticism by the average festivalgoer. Country music, even filtered through a reassuring lens of bucolic post-bop, seems to set the teeth of some jazz fans on edge, and following the amazing performance by Charles Lloyd and the Marvels with Lucinda Williams, I heard many bemused comments by audience members complaining that they just didn’t get it.
The set in the main arena reprised the encounter captured on Vanished Gardens (Blue Note) a singular album released in June featuring Williams, the brilliant and beloved singer/songwriter, and Lloyd’s Marvels. Cal Performances presents the NEA Jazz Master and Grammy Award-winning vocalist at Zellerbach Hall on Thursday, Dec. 6, with a slimmed down version of the Marvels featuring Greg Leisz on pedal steel and the superlative rhythm section tandem of bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland.
With her slurry phrasing and knack for leaving open space, Williams seems right at home interacting with Lloyd’s pillowy tenor sax and beatific flute work. The Marvels’ lukewarm reception at Monterey was disappointing on several levels. It was the same stage that catapulted Lloyd to superstardom following his 1966 performance with his blazing new quartet featuring unknown but rapidly rising young band with pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Cecil McBee, and drummer Jack DeJohnette. The performance was captured on breakout hit Forest Flower (Atlantic), which sold more than a million copies. He’s found a new muse with Williams, another fearlessly creative artist who has built her own musical niche.
Charles Lloyd & The Marvels with Lucinda Williams, 8 p.m. Thu., Dec. 6, Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, $34-$88, CalPerformances.org.
This report was originally published in our sister publication, the East Bay Monthly.