Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why should I listen to Charles Lloyd?

Taken at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara, September, 2006

Photo by Scott William

Charles Lloyd definitely isn´t one of the first names that come to mind when you think about jazz and fusion saxophonists. If you´re thinking old school playing, probably the first names that would pop into your head are John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Eric Dolphy, Lester Young and Dexter Gordon. If you´re going for something more free (as in “free jazz”), you would surely think about Ornette Coleman, Archie Sheep and Pharoah Sanders. If you are more of a fusion person, there is no doubt that you would think about Wayne Shorter, and maybe Dave Liebman or Steve Coleman. And finally, if you are looking into something a little bit fresher, you would probably choose a young lion, like Eric Alexander, James Carter or Joshua Redman. So: why Charles Lloyd?

Well, first of all because I like things that are not obvious. I like to think that the real treasure is just around the corner, yet to be discovered. But this is too personal of a choice, and probably has nothing to do with you guys. I also carry a belief that most of the things that last are hard to grasp, comprehend or even apprehend. Nothing that is easy really lasts, in the sense that it quickly becomes all too boring (did anyone say Kenny G?). Damn, that´s another personal reason. Let’s look into a little bit of history to see if we can make sense out of this choice.

A quick biographical search tells us that Charles Lloyd has been around for some time now. In the 60´s, after playing with Chico Hamilton and Cannonball Adderley he led a very popular group that had, among other musicians, Keith Jarrett and Jack de Johnette. This group recorded consistently and toured in some wild places, including rock venues as the Fillmore West in San Francisco and the U.S.S.R in the peak of the cold war. The group displayed a taste for innovation, crossing over from traditional jazz to more rock and fusion songs, always retaining a delicate balance between fire and melody. Lloyd displayed mastery over not only the sax, but also the flute, producing passages that would often remind the younger listener of Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull. At the end of the 60´s something strange happened when his quartet changed personnel, and Lloyd almost disappeared from the music scene in order to become a teacher of transcendental meditation. Throughout the 70´s and most of the 80´s he released a few records that marked experimentations with ambient music and soundscapes, and some of them were borderline new age. Suddenly, at the end of the eighties, Lloyd started making jazz music again. The responsible for this enlightenment was Michel Petrucciani, the marvelous and overlooked French piano player, who persuaded Lloyd into making music again. He is currently signed with the label ECM and has released 9 consistently amazing albums in the label.

So, let´s cut to the chase and tackle our initial question: why listen to Charles Lloyd? First, he is a real fusion innovator. You can see from his bio above that he has a (good) problem with boundaries: he played in rock venues in the mid sixties, went to U.S.S.R in the middle of cold war and went into a spiritual search at the height of his success. An interesting life combined with talent sure produces interesting and unique music. One can note that Lloyd´s music has a unique blend between moods, styles and phrases. Second, the man is alive and well, and has released consistently released magnificent for the last ten years, producing 9 albums of sheer beauty and distinct personalities. Notably, his last two outings deserve particular attention: Sangam, a live concert from 2006 where he is joined by the Indian tabla master Zakir Hussein and drummer Erik Harland, producing intense and unique music, and Rabo de Nube, a live outing from Charles Lloyd Quartet, that has the presence of the devilish piano of Jason Moran. These two releases also lead us to the third and final reason to listen to Lloyd: he has an excellent array of sidemen, that often steal the show. Musicians that rank in this category are John Abercrombie, Keith Jarrett, Michel Petrucciani, Dave Holland, Brad Mehldau, Zakir Hussein and Billy Higgins.

So, take it as a personal advice to you my friend: go listen to Charles Lloyd, and let me know if you found a treasurer around the corner.




André B. said...


I will most surely grab one of his cd's and give it a chance!

However, I am curious. What is his style? Does he seems as he plays with his heart, the emotional kind of guy? Or is he, simply, a great instrumentist? Is he conservative or audacious?

What is his thing? Sheer improv?? Or does he go for riffs and beautiful melodies?

Please explain to me, cause I dont know a thing about Jazz.

All the best,

Andrew Goodadventure

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Anonymous said...

I'm completely agree with you about the "amazing" Charles Lloyd. I simply adore this musician, his music is deep and opened to a "new" dimension... Great !

Touro said...

One thing is for sure! I bet this Charles Lloyd has never had an advertiser as good as you!!
Considering that I'm up to things that are not obvious too , and with such an interesting life and music career, I take Charle's sound for granted!
The question now is: where can i find his songs online? Do you have a hint?

Now I'm anxious to check what's this all about!!

cheers mate!!

Fernando Burgés

Touro said...

One thing is for sure! I bet this Charles Lloyd has never had an advertiser as good as you!

Well, considering that I'm up to things that are not obvious too, and with such an interesting biography and musical background, I take Charle's sound for granted!!

Now, there is one doubt left: where can i find his songs online? Do you have an idea??

Great post man!



Dr. Fusion said...

Great review Daniel !!

I will try to get my hands on a live recording with Charles Lloyd.

Stay tuned