Renowned saxophonist Charles Lloyd and singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams bring the best of their musical worlds to “Vanished Gardens” (Blue Note), a dazzling blend of jazz tunes that glow like embers and Williams’ intricately poetic songs.
Lloyd establishes a reflective mood on opening ballad “Defiant,” with Bill Frisell’s guitar and Greg Leisz’s pedal steel laying foundations for his tenor sax, along with the other two Marvels, drummer Eric Harland and bassist Reuben Rogers.
Frisell and Leisz each takes a solo turn, but their playing often feels more like a duet. Near its conclusion, Lloyd returns front and center to add some more delicate melodies. The track’s nearly nine minutes coast by brilliantly.
Williams makes her entrance on the second song, “Dust.” While the reflections remain inspired, Lloyd’s sax is anguished, and darkness is hovering: “You couldn’t cry if you wanted to / Even your thoughts are dust.”
Williams appears on five songs, including three reinterpretations of tunes from her solo albums, one new song and a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel.”
“We’ve Come Too Far to Turn Around,” the new song, has a gospel mood of people demonstrating resilience while facing a long series of mini apocalypses.
On “Unsuffer Me,” Williams’ aching call of “My joy is dead / I long for bliss” is answered by the band in a hypnotic, bluesy jam.
Among the instrumentals, Lloyd plays alto flute on the groovy “Blues for Langston and LaRue,” while Thelonious Monk’s meditative “Monk’s Mood” is a captivating duet by Lloyd and Frisell.
“Vanished Gardens” is a dynamic ensemble’s testament to creativity, musicianship and independence.