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CHARLES LLOYD & THE MARVELS/ LUCINDA WILLIAMS Vanished Garden gets 7/10


Charles Lloyd and the Marvels & Lucinda Williams 

Vanished Garden​ ​
Universal

7/10​

​Take a quick glance at Charles Lloyd’s Wikipedia page and you will see names that are impressive to jazz, soul, rock and blues fans. Bobby “Blue” Bland, Howlin’ Wolf, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, the Byrds… the list goes on. Lloyd has been in backing bands, led a quartet, released his own albums and, most recently, put together his own band of fine musicians; the Marvels.

Lucinda Williams is not the first artist I would imagine collaborating with a legendary jazz saxophone player and his band. Alt-Country, the genre of music most easily used to describe Ms Williams, but also an insubstantial definer for the albums she produces, is not known for including reed instruments of any stripe. A banjo, a slide-guitar, a fiddle, but rarely a flute or saxophone (both Lloyd’s main chosen instruments). Somehow though William’s sunburnt voice over the top of Llloyd’s lilting saxophone-runs works a special kind of magic. Vanished Garden is an album that produces moments that feel both entirely new but also only possible through the prism of a group of musicians with decades of experience in their various instruments and styles.​

The weariness of Lucinda William’s voice and the naturally forlorn tone of the saxophone are quite a match for each other, not so much trading space in the songs but intermingling to create concurrent dialogues, enriching each other. The Marvels are also nothing to sneeze at; Bill Frisell on guitar, Reuben Rogers bass, Greg Leisz on pedal steel/dobro and Eric Harland on percussion  – these are a group of highly accomplished musicians.

Vanished Gardens is not the first time these artists have played together; Frisell and Leisz have both previously worked with Williams and Lloyd and Williams traded off guest spots at each other’s concerts for a period of time. That comfort is felt within the album. The pairing of the band and Williams is one that never feels forced. When speaking of Williams, Lloyd described her as an “authentic American voice” and placed her name against classic beat poets such as Ferlinghetti and McClure (that he has previously worked with). Americana is another description used for the music Williams creates and is maybe the closest adjective for this hybrid; one that takes more then half a decade of jazz and blues experience and combines it with a country-esque singer from outside the mainstream. It is a style of music you can imagine the beat poets appreciating, mixing William’s poetic imagery of America with the jazz they so loved.​

Despite her inclusion of almost equal billing on the album’s cover, Lucinda Williams is only featured on half of Vanished Garden’s tracks. The songs that contain vocals by Williams are three covers of her previously released songs; Ventura, Unsuffer Me,  and most affectingly, Dust from Ghosts of Highway 20. Alongside those compositions are takes on Jimi Hendrix’s Angel, and one gospel standard We Have Come Too Far to Turn Around. As a Williams fan it is hard not to place these tracks above anything else on the album but I am almost certain that if you are enticed into listening based on her appearances you will not be disappointed by the tracks that are solely the work of Charles Lloyd and the Marvels. And they are not just jazz arrangements once Williams takes a step back, tracks such as Defiant keep the country sound with a predominant slide guitar.

Vanished Garden is a wonderful and unexpected (at least for this reviewer) treat. Whether you are brought in by the legendary pedigree of Charles Lloyd, a love for Ms Williams, or a respect for the combined abilities of the Marvels, this is an album worth listening to many times over.

JAS HUGHES

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