Charles Lloyd / Billy Higgins Which Way Is East?

Billy Higgins may never equal the posthumous release schedule of Jimi, Tuff Gong or Tupac, but he's a man who knew his time was coming up and embarked on a flurry of activity shortly before his demise in 2001. He had a longstanding partnership with fellow septuagenarian Charles Lloyd, and this disc, the most recent evidence of their activity, sure feels like a eulogy. This sounds nothing like your father's ECM — this disc is brimming with passion, spontaneity and is not at all austere. Recorded in California, this double-disc has both players dueting on a number of instruments. The approaches they bring to unconventional instrumentation such as one-stringed harps are just as vital as those they bring to their more familiar drums/sax/flute combos. Lloyd is 20 years removed from his new age dreck phase, and incorporates the calm and composure of those years with his more penetrating work from the ’60s. Higgins manages to summon energy, humour, grooviness and above all lucid communication in these last sessions in which he was very sick. Listening to these discs is utterly compelling, like hearing the final words of someone you love sum up their entire lives in an inspired way. Which Way Is East? is not at all sad, it's a celebration of the joint experiences of a century of musical experience. (ECM)