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About ECM
April 20 , 2004


“One word dominates the recordings: joy. The word ‘play’ can ring trivial when applied to what serious musicians do, but here it’s appropriate. Lloyd and Higgins take full advantage to tumble over each other in the ultra-free sax-drums format… Those instruments are only the foundation: both players pry into every corner of their multiple virtuosities, with some really vivid combinations resulting. Higgins gets inside your chest with the thick string overtones of the North African guimbri while Lloyd’s tenor dances around his partner’s unwestern scales, and they come to mind-stretching agreements somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic.”
Greg Burk, LA Weekly

“An atmosphere of liberation empowers both participants on this uncommonly moving musical document…. ”Which Way Is East” gives us a fuller musical portrait of Billy Higgins than we ever expected to have.”
Steve Futterman, Washington Post

“In short order, the listener moves through Ornette microtonality, Coltrane/Ali ecstaticism, Arabic poetics, pre-depression blues… Territories traversed are immense.”
Steve Cline, Earshot Jazz

“A huge, sprawling record that seems to encompass much of what we understand today by world music and yet returns inevitably to the jazz that inspired both Lloyd and Higgins throughout their careers.”
Duncan Heining, Jazzwise

As the first, highly positive, reviews of “Which Way Is East” came in, Charles Lloyd was in Europe, continuing to pay tribute to Billy Higgins, who died in May 2001, just four months after the duo recording now issued as “Which Way Is East”.

At the end of March 2004, Lloyd performed a well-received solo concert at the Cully Festival in Switzerland, prefaced by extract s from Dorothy Darr’s video “Home” which documents Lloyd/Higgins collaboration. In Cully, and at French dates in Grenoble and Amiens, he also played in duo with pianist Geri Allen, the musician who had urged him to make public the tapes with Higgins, originally recorded without thought of commercial release.

Taking the Billy Higgins tributes back to the States, Lloyd played further concerts with Higgins-inspired drummer Eric Harland and tabla master Zakir Hussain in San Francisco and Seattle. More such memorials are on the way.

Meanwhile, “Which Way Is East” has entered the Billboard Traditional Jazz Chart at Number 13, a singular achievement for a record as resolutely unconventional, traditional only in the sense that it reanimates the tradition of jazz as “the sound of surprise”.