Charles Lloyd (jazz musician)

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Charles Lloyd
Charles Lloyd in Melbourne 2014.jpg
Lloyd in 2014
Background information
Born (1938-03-15) March 15, 1938 (age 78)
Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Genres Jazz, post-bop
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Tenor saxophone, flute, taragot, other woodwinds
Years active 1959–present
Labels Atlantic, Blue Note, Columbia, ECM, Pacific Arts

Charles Lloyd (born March 15, 1938 in Memphis, Tennessee) is an American jazz musician. Though he primarily plays tenor saxophone and flute, he has occasionally recorded on other reed instruments, including alto saxophone and the Hungarian tárogató.

Lloyd's working band since 2007 features pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Eric Harland.


Charles Lloyd at Russian River Jazz Festival, Guerneville CA 1981. Photo: Brian McMillen

Lloyd grew up in Memphis, and was exposed to its rich river culture and musical heritage, including blues, gospel and jazz. Lloyd's ancestry of African, Cherokee, Mongolian, and Irish descent reflects a similar rich culture. He was given his first saxophone at the age of 9, and was riveted by 1940s radio broadcasts by Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. His early teachers included pianist Phineas Newborn, Jr. and saxophonist Irvin Reason. His closest childhood friend was the great trumpeter Booker Little. As a teenager Lloyd played jazz with saxophonist George Coleman, Booker Little, Harold Mabern, and Frank Strozier, and was a sideman for blues greats Johnny Ace, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King.

Classical music exerted a strong pull on the young Lloyd. In 1956 he left Memphis for Los Angeles to earn a degree in music at USC where he studied with Halsey Stevens, a foremost Bartók authority. While his days were spent in academia, Lloyd spent nights getting educated on the job in L.A.'s jazz clubs, playing with Ornette Coleman, Billy Higgins, Scott LaFaro, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Eric Dolphy, Bobby Hutcherson and other leading west coast jazz artists. He also was a member of the Gerald Wilson big band.

In 1960 Lloyd was invited to become music director of Chico Hamilton's group when Dolphy left to join Charles Mingus's band. The Hungarian guitarist Gábor Szabó and bassist Albert "Sparky" Stinson soon joined Lloyd in the band. Hamilton's most memorable albums for Impulse Records, Passin' Thru and Man from Two Worlds, featured music arranged and written almost entirely by Lloyd, and during this period of prolific composing he was also finding his unique voice as a saxophonist. A collaboration took place between Lloyd and the Nigerian master drummer Babatunde Olatunji, with whom the saxophonist played when he wasn't on the road with Hamilton. Lloyd joined the Cannonball Adderley Sextet in 1964, and performed alongside Nat Adderley, Joe Zawinul, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes. He remained with Cannonball for two years, and to this day continues to acknowledge the important role Cannonball played in his own development as a leader.

In 1964 Lloyd signed with CBS Records and began to record as a leader. His Columbia recordings, Discovery! (1964), and Of Course, Of Course (1965), featured sidemen including Roy Haynes and Tony Williams on drums, Richard Davis and Ron Carter on bass, Gabor Szabo on guitar and Don Friedman on piano, and led to his being voted Down Beat magazine's "New Star." Of Course, Of Course was reissued on Mosaic Records in 2006.

Lloyd left Cannonball Adderley in 1965 to form his own quartet, an ensemble that included pianist Keith Jarrett, drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Cecil McBee. Their first release together was a studio recording, Dream Weaver, followed by Forest Flower: Live at Monterey (1966). Forest Flower made history as one of the first jazz recordings to sell a million copies, and the album's firsts continued as it became a crossover success that appealed to a popular mass market audiences and gained heavy airplay on FM radio.

The Quartet was the first jazz group to appear at the famed Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. The acoustic group fused virtuoso improvising with a constantly changing combination of musical tropes, incorporating the challenge of avant-garde or "free jazz" with elements of non-Western music, impressionistic harmonies and occasional rock rhythms in open-ended musical flights that echoed the free spirit of the so-called psychedelic 1960s. Electric jazz/rock germinated in a series of original performances that, ironically, were acoustic. He was invited to guest on recordings with the Doors, the Byrds, Aashish and Pranesh Khan, and the Beach Boys. Miles Davis and other jazz figures were highly influenced by Lloyd's explorations and soon plugged in to play for the young fans that Lloyd had reached through his acoustic outings. During this period the Quartet also shared billing with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Cream, the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.

In 1967 Lloyd was voted "Jazz Artist of the Year" by Down Beat magazine,[1] and the Quartet was invited to tour the world. The Lloyd quartet found a warm reception in Europe at the new jazz festivals in Montreux, Antibes, and Molde. Its performances in the Far East, the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc nations of Europe often marked the first time these audiences had heard an American jazz group live.

Credited by many musicians with anticipating the World Music movement by incorporating cadences of many cultures in his compositions as early as the late 1950s, Lloyd describes his music as having always "danced on many shores".[2] As Peter Watrous noted, "Lloyd has come up with a strange and beautiful distillation of the American experience, part abandoned and wild, part immensely controlled and sophisticated."[3]

From the moment he first came to prominence as the young music director of the Chico Hamilton Quintet in 1960, Lloyd began to take audiences on journeys that traversed enormous distances. Over nearly five decades, his compositions have punctuated the post-bop period, embraced the traditional music of a host of world cultures and enlivened the psychedelic 1960s with avant-garde improvisation.

Lloyd was one of the first jazz artists to sell one million copies of a recording (Forest Flower), and then he surprised the music world by walking away from performing just at the point that he was dubbed a jazz superstar. Actually he was just following a trajectory that was taking him closer to the essence of the music he was hearing.

At the peak of the Cold War in 1967, Lloyd made headlines when his Quartet became the first jazz group from the U.S. to play in the USSR by invitation of the Soviet people rather than through government sponsorship. Its first stop was Tallinn and subsequent concerts took place in Leningrad and Moscow.

At the height of his career in the early 1970s, Lloyd disbanded the quartet and dropped from sight, withdrawing to pursue an inner journey in Big Sur, the wild haven that had previously attracted other artists and seekers including Robinson Jeffers, Langston Hughes, Henry Miller, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac, Jean Varda and Jaime de Angulo.

Despite recording several albums during the 1970s and occasionally appearing as a sideman, he practically disappeared from the jazz scene. During the 1970s Lloyd played extensively with the Beach Boys both on their studio recordings and as a member of their touring band. In the late 1970s Lloyd was a member of Celebration, a band composed of members of the Beach Boys' touring band as well as Mike Love and Al Jardine. Celebration released two albums.[4][5]

It wasn't until 1981 that Lloyd moved to break a decade of silence in the jazz world when a remarkable 18-year-old French pianist, Michel Petrucciani, arrived in Big Sur. Lloyd was compelled to help introduce this gifted artist to the world. This led to U.S., European and Japanese tours in 1982 and 1983 with Petrucciani on piano, Palle Danielsson on bass and drummer Son Ship Theus. British jazz critic Brian Case called Lloyd's return "one of the events of the 1980s."[6] The group produced a special edition cassette, Night Blooming Jasmine, and two live records, Montreux 82 and A Night in Copenhagen, which also features Bobby McFerrin (reissued by Blue Note Records). Satisfied that Petrucciani was beginning to receive the recognition he deserved, Lloyd again retreated to Big Sur.

In 1986, after being hospitalized with a nearly fatal medical condition, Lloyd rededicated himself to music. When he regained his strength in 1988 he formed a new quartet with the renowned Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson. When Lloyd returned to the Montreux Festival in 1988, Swiss critic Yvan Ischer wrote: "To see and hear Charles Lloyd in concert is always an event, not only because this saxophonist has been at quite a few crossroads, but also because he seems to hold an impalpable truth which makes him a thoroughly original musician...This is what we call grace."[2]

Lloyd made his first recording for ECM Records, Fish Out of Water in 1989. The project marked the beginning of a new wave of Lloyd compositions and recordings. ECM's producer, Manfred Eicher, compared the recording to a Giacometti painting, saying, "I really believe this is the refined essence of what music should be. All the meat is gone, only the bones remain."[6] More than twenty years later, he is still with the label, and still in search of the “sound” and the truth. From 1989, Lloyd toured actively and recorded for the ECM label. Although his playing had not changed much stylistically since his groundbreaking work in the 1960s, these recordings showcased his sensitivity as a ballad player. Noteworthy albums include Canto, Voice in the Night, The Water Is Wide (featuring Brad Mehldau, John Abercrombie, Larry Grenadier and Billy Higgins), Lift Every Voice (featuring Geri Allen), and the live Rabo de Nube (with Jason Moran).

Lloyd has shown great consistency and creativity in his period with ECM, much of his music containing a strong spiritual element, some it heavily in a "world music" vein, and some of it unusual and experimental as in the duets on Which Way Is East with his longtime friend and musical soulmate, Billy Higgins.[7][8][9]

Mirror, his second recording with the New Quartet (released September 2010), has already been called a "Charles Lloyd classic." Rabo de Nube, also on ECM, captured the quartet "live" at its inception, and was voted #1 recording for the 2008 JazzTimes Reader's and Critic's Poll.[10] His concerts and recordings are events of pristine beauty and elegance, full of intensely felt emotion and passion that touches deep inside the heart. This is not entertainment, but the powerful uncorrupted expression of beauty through music. When music vibrates, the soul vibrates and touches the spirit within.

Lloyd established another "first" in his interesting history of jazz "firsts," by collaborating with the classical Greek singer, Maria Farantouri, for a concert at the Herodion Theater at the foot of the Acropolis. Ta Nea, the leading newspaper of Athens, stated "Music has no borders…. The audience was filled with a Dionysian ecstasy. While the music had reminiscences of a Hypiros fair, at the same time it took you to the heart of New York City."[6] This concert was recorded and Athens Concert was released by ECM records in 2011.[11]

Charles Lloyd maintains an active performance and recording schedule with the New Quartet, Sangam, Maria Farantouri and special projects around the world. He celebrated his 75th birthday in 2013 with concerts in the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum and the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.[12][13] On June 25, 2014 it was announced that Lloyd will receive the NEA Jazz Masters Award 2015.[14] Lloyd was the Honoree at the 2014 Monterey Jazz Festival Jazz Legends Gala, hosted by Herbie Hancock.[15] Lloyd was the recipient of the 2014 Alfa Jazz Fest International Music Award.[16] In January 2015, it was announced that Lloyd had signed with Blue Note Records and that a forthcoming album would be released. Wild Man Dance, a live recording of a long-form suite commissioned by the Jazztopad Festival in Wroclaw, Poland, was subsequently released in April 2015.[17] Lloyd was presented with an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the Berklee College of Music in a ceremony at the Umbria Jazz Festival In July 2015.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Lloyd lives in Southern California with his wife, Dorothy Darr.[19]


Charles Lloyd with Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland, Santa Barbara, 2006

As leader[edit]

Release date Title Label
1964 Discovery! Columbia
1965 Of Course, Of Course Columbia
1968 Nirvana Columbia
1966 Dream Weaver Atlantic
1966 Forest Flower Atlantic
1966 The Flowering Atlantic
1966 Charles Lloyd in Europe Atlantic
1967 Love-In Atlantic
1967 Journey Within Atlantic
1967 Charles Lloyd in the Soviet Union Atlantic
1968 Soundtrack Atlantic
1970 Moon Man Kapp
1971 Warm Waters Kapp
1972 Waves A&M
1973 Geeta A&M
1973 Morning Sunrise ADC
1978 Weavings Pacific Arts
1978 Koto ADC (Same album as Pathless Path)
1979 Pathless Path Unity (Same album as Koto)
1979 Big Sur Tapestry Pacific Arts
1979 Autumn in New York Volume One Destiny
1982 Montreux 82 Elektra/Musician
1983 A Night in Copenhagen Blue Note
1989 Fish Out of Water ECM
1992 Notes from Big Sur ECM
1993 Acoustic Masters I Atlantic
1993 The Call ECM
1994 All My Relations ECM
1996 Canto ECM
1999 Voice in the Night ECM
2000 The Water Is Wide ECM
2001 Hyperion with Higgins ECM
2002 Lift Every Voice ECM
2004 Which Way is East ECM
2005 Jumping the Creek ECM
2006 Sangam ECM
2008 Rabo de Nube ECM
2010 Mirror ECM
2011 Athens Concert (with Maria Farantouri) ECM
2013 Hagar's Song with Jason Moran ECM
2015 Wild Man Dance Blue Note
2016 I Long To See You Blue Note

As sideman[edit]

Release date Title Label Notes
With Chico Hamilton
1960 Bye Bye Birdie-Irma La Douce Columbia
1960 The Chico Hamilton Special Columbia
1962 Drumfusion Columbia
1962 Transfusion Studio West
1962 Passin' Thru Impulse!
1963 A Different Journey Reprise
1963 Man from Two Worlds Impulse!
1965 Chic Chic Chico Impulse! Appears on only one track
With Les McCann
1961 Les McCann Sings Pacific Jazz Appears on four tracks
With Cannonball Adderley
1964 Cannonball Adderley Live! Capitol
1964 Cannonball Adderley's Fiddler on the Roof Capitol
1991 Radio Nights Night
With The Beach Boys
1971 Surf's Up Caribou/Stateside Appears on only one track
1973 Holland Brother
1976 15 Big Ones Brother Appears on only one track
1978 M.I.U. Album Brother
With Canned Heat
1971 Historical Figures and Ancient Heads United Artists Appears on two tracks
With The Doors
1972 Full Circle Elektra Appears on "Verdilac" and "The Piano Bird"
With Harvey Mandel
1972 The Snake Janus Appears on only one track
With Gábor Szabó
1973 Gábor Szabó Live Blue Thumb Appears on only one track
With Roger McGuinn
1973 Roger McGuinn Columbia Appears on two tracks
With William Truckaway
1976 Breakaway Reprise
With Celebration
1978 Almost Summer: Music from the Original Motion Picture MCA
1979 Celebration Pacific Arts
1979 Disco Celebration ADC
With Joe Sample
1995 Old Places, Old Faces Warner Bros Appears on three tracks
With Mark Isham
1998 Afterglow: Music from the Motion Picture Columbia


  1. ^ "1967 Downbeat Readers Poll". DownBeat Magazine. December 31, 1967. 
  2. ^ a b Lloyd, Charles. "Biography" (PDF). Retrieved April 24, 2014. 
  3. ^ Watrous, Peter (June 22, 1992). "Review/Jazz Festival; Tribute to Coltrane from Charles Lloyd". New York Times. 
  4. ^ Kluck, Henk; Stubenrauch, Robert (2003). Dream Weaver: Charles Lloyd – His Life and Music. Thora Press. pp. 62, 70, 75–79. ISBN 90-9016658-0. 
  5. ^ "Video: The Beach Boys, "All This is That" live 1978". Retrieved April 28, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c "All About Jazz Musician Profile: Charles Lloyd". All About Jazz. Retrieved April 24, 2014. 
  7. ^ Richardson, Derk (April 1, 2004). "A Jazz Love Affair / Charles Lloyd pays homage to Billy Higgins at the SF Jazz Fest Spring Season". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 16, 2013. 
  8. ^ Elwood, Philip (March 22, 2001). "Loving Tribute for Higgins / Emotional riffs by Sanders, Lloyd". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 16, 2013. 
  9. ^ Elwood, Philip (October 28, 1997). "Jazz Fest's Drum Summit". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 16, 2013. 
  10. ^ "2008 Year in Review: Top 50 CDs". JazzTimes. January 2009. Retrieved April 24, 2014. 
  11. ^ "ECM Records Catalog". ECM Records Official Site. ECM Records. Retrieved April 24, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Charles Lloyd New Quartet and Friends at The Temple of Dendur". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved April 24, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Charles Lloyd Birthday Celebration". The Kennedy Center Official Website. The Kennedy Center. Retrieved April 24, 2014. 
  14. ^ "NEA Announces Lifetime Honors Recipients | NEA". June 25, 2014. Retrieved 2015-05-20. 
  15. ^ "2015 Jazz Legends Gala | 58th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival – September 18 – 20, 2015". Retrieved 2015-05-20. 
  16. ^ "Фестиваль "Альфа Джаз"". Retrieved 2015-05-20. 
  18. ^ Keefe-Feldman, Mike. "Berklee, Umbria Jazz Festival Celebrate 30-Year Partnership". Retrieved August 4, 2015. 
  19. ^ Woodard, Josef (June 2008). "Charles Lloyd". JazzTimes. Retrieved July 9, 2013. 

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