Greg Lloyd Group

Foundry 616, August 19

Greg Lloyd resExpert improvising musicians can instantly strike a rapport and create good and sometimes great music without having ever previously worked together or even met. This was the case with pianist Greg Lloyd, an ex-Sydneysider long resident in Ireland, who was playing with the established local rhythm section of bassist Dave Groves and drummer Cameron Reid for the first time. A delight in the music made went hand-in-hand with a fascination in the mechanics of the process.

Rather than playing safe with the shared language of standards Lloyd bit the bullet and asked his new colleagues to navigate his own compositions, with one eye on the notation, another on his cues, and their ears working overtime to turn templates into music. The downsides were a certain tentativeness that could hold the music back, and occasional moments of imprecision that more familiarity would have swiftly dispelled. But these drawbacks were far outweighed by the routine convergence of three minds on synonymous ideas in a given moment in time.

The impressive quality of Lloyd’s compositions helped the cause. These included the odd mix of portentousness and serenity in Long Way Home, the gospel funk (with rhythmic speed-humps) of Chew the Fat, the vibrant Latin groove of Rue de Seine and, best of all, the exquisite soft-edged impressionism of A Night Away.

Singer Susan Gai Dowling joined the trio for four standards in the middle of the performance, and it was a joy to encounter once again the easy flair with which she breathed vitality into a song. The highlight was I Don’t Want to Cry Anymore, a ballad that Dowling could make poignant without wallowing in its sadness.

Here, as on his own material, Lloyd impressed with his ability to invest his solos with imaginative changes of rhythmic and melodic direction. The only disappointment was the absence of any of the North African Chaabi music that has been prominent in his European career. Perhaps he needed longer-term collaborators for that.