I Long To See You (Blue Note)

Charles Lloyd & The Marvels

Released January 2016

Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2016

JazzTimes Top 10 Albums of 2016






The seed for I Long To See You was planted in 2013 when Charles Lloyd invited Bill Frisell to perform with him at UCLA’s Royce Hall. They had met earlier that year when they shared a stage, and Lloyd says, “We made a connection. I knew that we were moving toward the sound. Bill is a great sensitive and very intuitive. When he was a kid in Denver, he told me he was influenced by my first band with Jack DeJohnette and Keith Jarrett. He said that music opened his imagination to a wide spectrum of new possibilities. We don’t need to say much when we get together—it’s all expressed in the music, in the sound, the feeling.”

While Lloyd pondered releasing the live show as his next Blue Note album, his wife, Dorothy Darr, insisted that he head to the studio instead (she serves as a co-producer of the new album with Lloyd and Blue Note president Don Was). As for the inclusion of the singers, Lloyd simply says, “I love the voice.”

I Long to See You opens with an impassioned reading of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” about the military-industrial complex arms buildup, and also includes the anti-war song “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream,” which is sung here by Willie Nelson with graceful tenor support. “When I was living in Big Sur, a friend gave me a copy of Stardust,” Lloyd says of Nelson’s 1978 album of jazz standards. “I recognized a synchronicity between us in his choice of songs. Willie is a very soulful, independent outsider who loves the Zone. He has been paving the Freedom Trail for many years now, and we follow in his wake. I was incredibly honored that he accepted the invitation to sing on ‘Strangest Dream.’”

The well-worn song “You Are So Beautiful” (originally written by Billy Preston and made into a hit in 1974 by Joe Cocker) gets a spacious reading here with Norah Jones lending her indelible voice. “During my concerts, I sometimes play it as an encore,” he says. “For a long time in my mind’s ear I could hear Norah’s warmth caressing the lyrics. She became an extraordinary, beautiful sixth instrument in the rendition of the song.”

In addition to the new original “Barche Lamsel,” a 16-minute sonic exploration that closes the album, Lloyd and co. also cover some of the leader’s earlier songs, including “Of Course, Of Course,” as well as the indelibly melodic “Sombrero Sam” which was first recorded on his 1966 Atlantic album Dream Weaver.

For the traditional vein in the album, Lloyd gives a duende read of the lyrical “La Llorona,” which he previously recorded on his 2009 ECM album Mirror. The sobering beauty of “All My Trials,” which is based on a Bahamian lullaby but is also associated with the 1960s protest movement, brings a spiritual quality to the album, while the hymn “Abide With Me” features Lloyd’s melancholic tenor lead with Frisell shadowing his notes. And Lloyd brilliantly takes on one of the greatest tunes in the traditional American songbook, “Shenandoah,” drawing the album’s title from the song’s yearning lyrics. I Long To See You is the follow-up to Lloyd’s remarkable 2015 live album Wild Man Dance, which marked his triumphant return to Blue Note Records. While talking about his “call of the wild” at the time, Lloyd said, “I am still searching to find the sound. It is my path. I call myself a ‘sound seeker.’ The deeper I dive into the ocean of sound, I find there is still deeper and further to go.”

Track Listing:

1. Masters of War (Bob Dylan) 8:05

2. Of Course, of Course (Charles Lloyd) 6:03

3. La Llorona (Traditional) 6:02

4. Shenandoah (Traditional) 6:23

5. Sombrero Sam (Charles Lloyd) 7:31

6. All My Trials (Traditional) 5:02

7. Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream (Ed McCurdy) 4:48

8. Abide with Me (Traditional) 1:22

9. You Are So Beautiful (Bruce Fisher / Billy Preston) 6:05

10. Barche Lamsel (Charles Lloyd) 16:25


Charles Lloyd: tenor saxophone, flute

Bill Frisell: guitar

Greg Leisz: steel guitar

Reuben Rogers: bass

Eric Harland: drums

Willie Nelson: vocals (7)

Norah Jones: vocals (9)

Recorded April 27 – 28, 2015, at Lobero Theatre, at Santa Barbara Sound Design

Produced by Dorothy Darr, Charles Lloyd & Don Was


I Long to See You marks a change of pace for Charles Lloyd; there isn’t anything quite like it in his discography since this an album of country influenced mood music. He returns to two of his originals from the 1960s in ‘Sombrero Sam’ and ‘Of Course, Of Course’, to his ECM years with ‘La Llorona’ and contributes a fresh original in ‘Barch Lamsel’, the album highlight among a repertoire that ranges far and wide to variable effect.

Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’ could have been successfully edited to half its length, for example, in its present form an amiable noodle, and this seems to be the destiny of several songs. Part of the problem is the laid back playing of Bill Frisell, who sounds as if he could barely get out of bed in the morning. Lloyd plays well, but he does need someone to bounce off. There are nice moments: ‘Abide With Me’ would please the Anfield faithful, ‘All My Trials’ has elegance as long as Lloyd is at the microphone, while Willie Nelson’s ‘Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream’ somehow works in the context of the album. Dear old Norah Jones – she who bank rolled the survival of the Blue Note label – is unmistakably Norah, if you like that sort of thing. Great for iPod listening since this functions well as undemanding background music. 

Stuart Nicholson (Jazzwise)