Forgotten Treasures

Lloyd McNeill Quartet “Washington Suite” (1970, Soul Jazz Records)


Informed Jazz reflection of the times

Sometimes you hear a flute used in a composition and immediately your shoulders jump up to cover your ears. It comes off as a cosmetic afterthought that bears no sustenance. NOBODY got time for that!

Lloyd McNeill does it differently. The professor, painter and world-renowned jazz-flutist formed an “enlightened quartet” around 1970 that was in tune with the political climate of the time and reflected the sonic components which were influencing Alice Coltrane, The Art Ensemble of Chicago and electric Miles Davis. Essentially classical music, dance, gospel, funk, soul, and blues. Similar to the contemporary ways that hip-hop, house, disco, boogie and techno keep merging and morphing into new forms. Charting new algorithms.

When you hear McNeill, who studied music theory and flute technique with Eric Dolphy, delivering his statement via flute on the iconic “Home Rule”, he’s got some girth, weight, and purpose behind it. Working within the determined groove extolled from Marshall Hawkins’ bass, Robert Gravatt’s drums and the electric piano magic by Eugene Rush. While the tone is somewhat celebratory it still casts off an air of perseverance through adversity.

“Washington Suite”, which is being re-issued by Soul Jazz Records, was originally commissioned as a piece of music for the Capital Ballet Company, in Washington, DC. The illusory veneer of “2504 Cliffbourne Pl.” and the magisterial 16 minute “City Triptych” displays McNeill’s compositional aptitude. Yet it’s the ever-present rhythmic indentation of “Just 71% Moor” and “Home Rule” that has kept this record on playlists from the downtempo/acid jazz moments of the early 1990’s to the present.

“Washington Suite” reissued March 31, 2017 on Soul Jazz Records.

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John-Paul Shiver

John-Paul Shiver

SF Music Journalist who writes for @pulplab @sfsonicmag , likes more songs about buildings and food. He's written for several Bay Area Music publications over the past 15 years.