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Music Review: Charles Lloyd and Lucinda Williams, a dazzling blend

This cover image released by Blue Note shows "Vanished Gardens," a new release by Charles Lloyd & The Marvels + Lucinda Williams. (Blue Note via AP)

(AP) -- Charles Lloyd & The Marvels + Lucinda Williams, "Vanished Gardens" (Blue Note)

    Renowned saxophonist Charles Lloyd and singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams bring the best of their musical worlds to "Vanished Gardens," a dazzling blend of jazz tunes glowing like embers and Williams' intricately poetic songs.

    Lloyd establishes a reflective mood right from the start on opening ballad "Defiant," with Bill Frisell's guitar and Greg Leisz's pedal steel laying foundations for his tenor saxophone, along with the other two Marvels, drummer Eric Harland and bassist Reuben Rogers.

    Frisell and Leisz each take solo turns, but their playing, each from one channel of the stereo spectrum, 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 so brilliantly, in just another five, ideas to solve half your problems surely would have sprung from it.

    Williams makes her entrance on track two, "Dust," and 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 tracks, 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 tune, 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 the 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.

    In its entirety, "Vanished Gardens" is a dynamic ensemble's testament to creativity, musicianship and independence.

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