Search - Charles Lloyd, Billy Higgins :: Which Way Is East

Which Way Is East
Charles Lloyd, Billy Higgins
Which Way Is East
Genres: Folk, Jazz, Pop
  •  Track Listings (4) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (3) - Disc #2

Sadness mixes with spiritual uplift on Which Way is East, an epic series of duets recorded by saxophonist Charles Lloyd and drummer Billy Higgins in Lloyd's home a few months before Higgins's death in 2001. The Californian...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Charles Lloyd, Billy Higgins
Title: Which Way Is East
Members Wishing: 4
Total Copies: 0
Label: Ecm Import
Release Date: 3/30/2004
Album Type: Import
Genres: Folk, Jazz, Pop
Style: Avant Garde & Free Jazz
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPCs: 602498117965, 0602498117965

Sadness mixes with spiritual uplift on Which Way is East, an epic series of duets recorded by saxophonist Charles Lloyd and drummer Billy Higgins in Lloyd's home a few months before Higgins's death in 2001. The Californians were dear friends going back to their teens. Here, in eight connected suites performed on a full array of instruments, they filter their feelings for each other, their music, and their world through their religious outlooks--Lloyd is a Buddhist, Higgins was a devoted Muslim. The pieces range from spirited free jazz with Lloyd on tenor and Higgins at the traps to New Age reflections featuring Lloyd on taragato and Tibetan oboe and Higgins on hand drums and wood box. Higgins also dabbles with guitar and a Syrian "one-string," showing off a rarely heard facet of his talent. Clocking in at more than two and a half hours, the double CD is no short walk in the transcendental woods, but the varied instrumental settings keep things livelier than some of Lloyd's slowly paced band recordings. And on alto, Lloyd has fun trading in his debt to John Coltrane to emulate one of Higgins's many other legendary employers, Ornette Coleman. --Lloyd Sachs

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CD Reviews

Entirely worth having . . .
Jan P. Dennis | Monument, CO USA | 04/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

". . . even if it doesn't consistently represent either of these great musicians' finest playing. Essentially more of a relaxed musical conversation than a regular jazz session, with a bit of meandering, some idiosyncratic monolog and dialog, punctuated by occasional profundity, this disc nevertheless somehow manages to unveil a unique depth of musical feeling on the part of these two long-time friends and jazz warriors. It is also the last session Billy Higgins, certainly among the very first rank of drummers in the history of jazz, played on, recorded just a few months before he passed. And its being recorded in Montecito, CA, a place of very fond memories for me (I graduated from Westmont College, located in the heart of Montecito), renders it all the more personally endearing.Really, there is nothing to be gainsaid about this recording. Yes, it contains a rather wildly eclectic sampling of music endeavor, everything from free jazz to eerily rendered world music, to country blues to various strains of religious music including traditional Islamic and Indian as well as Christian gospel. Yes, it is somewhat uneven (a foregone conclusion given the circumstances of its recording--a casual session in Lloyd's living room). Yes, some of the material seems almost impossibly naïve, raw, and unpolished. Yes, it is more along the lines of rather undeveloped melodic and rhythmic fragments than full-blown songs. On the other hand, there are many fine moments, you get two discs, over two and a half hours of music, for about the price of one premium disc these days, and you get to hear two brilliant musicians playing a ten or so instruments apiece in various combinations. And it's not as if these guys haven't earned to right to make a disc like this if they want. Lloyd plays a lot of alto sax on this session, revealing a side of his musical makeup not often heard on his extensive discography. He's more extroverted and declamatory on the smaller horn, although he retains quite a bit of his famous legato approach. Higgins employs his drum set on less than a third of the numbers (nine out of thirty), instead often opting for a hand drum, wooden box, or even guitar. If approached with an understanding of its limitations and reduced musical parameters, this disc can be absolutely rewarding. Indeed, it has an intimacy, innocence, and grace not often made manifest in ANY musical setting, let alone one from musicians of such high and extensive accomplishment. If you have any affinity for the music of these brilliant men, you will by all means want to pick this up. Open ears and mind will help you gain access to its remarkable treasures."
N. Dorward | Toronto, ON Canada | 04/17/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Two months before Billy Higgins' death, the drummer & Charles Lloyd say their musical farewells with the tapes rolling (courtesy Lloyd's partner Dorothy Darr, who also made a film of proceedings). They play sax/drums duets (Lloyd mostly on alto, in fitting homage to Ornette Coleman, though he also plays excellent Traneish tenor on three tracks); they perform exotic woodwind/percussion duets, with Lloyd on Tibetan oboe or flute; Higgins plays guimbri (the 3-stringed instrument used in Gnawa music), sings gently (& rather dodgily) in a variety of languages, even plays a blues on the guitar or does a 1960sish paean to love called "Take a Chance"; Lloyd adds short meditations at the piano. Some of these tracks don't mean much outside the context of this session--the piano solos get a bit too samey, & there's too much voice'n'guitar (though the blues is rather nice). Others are superb--the two long alto/drums duos (one on each disc) are great stuff, & Lloyd's tenor pieces are also superb (there's a nice Traneish blues on disc 2). The more exotic pieces are often quite ravishing. I suppose that many listeners will for sentimental reasons like having all this stuff, the unalloyed good tracks as well as those that only acquire real significance in the face of Higgins' own personal tragedy. I'm less sentimental when it comes to what goes on my stereo: I could have wished for a carefully selected single CD of the highlights, which would have been a genuinely outstanding disc. Four stars as a compromise rating seems about right. This isn't a disc for the casual listener, but for those willing to bear with a few qualitative dips & peaks, it'll prove a rewarding release."
AfriKane | RSA | 02/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"What an extraordinary two & half hour ride. A musical journey of grace and beauty made vital by the spiritual connection these two muscians so palpably have. Indeed, I felt as if I were eavesdropping on a private conversation. I am very greatful that they decided to let us in on it. Hambe Kahle Billy"