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Highlights from a 80 year long journey: Charles Lloyd

Blog
Highlights from a 80 year long journey: Charles Lloyd

21.05.2018

Text: Cem Kayıran

We cannot think of a better reason to look back at the highlights from Charles Lloyd’s long and busy career, as the legendary musician celebrated his 80th birthday last month. 

*Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Charles Llyod started to engage with music in his early childhood during 1940s, influenced by names like Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Lester Young, whom he listened to on the radio. Lloyd acquired his first saxophone at the age of nine, and his first teachers were master sax player Irvin Reason and pianist Phineas Newborn, Jr.

*His best childhood friend was trumpeter Booker Little, who later went on to work with legends like Max Roach and John Coltrane. The duo started to take the stage in different career paths, and the first names Lloyd shared the stage with were Harold Mabern, Frank Strozier ve George Coleman.

*Later on, Lloyd became a part Johnny Ace, Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King’s orchestras, left Memphis in 1956 and took music education in University of South California. At the university, he learned about Bartók from music professor Halsey Stevens while also sharing stage at important jazz clubs with names like Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy. He was also a part of Gerald Wilson’s big band.

“I was born in Memphis. There was music all around me, really deep and special music. I heard all these great masters at a young age. There was a great genius in my town, Phineas Newborn, who is one of the greatest pianists ever on the planet. He took me under his wings at about 9 and he put me on the right track.” –Charles Lloyd

*Charles Lloyd’s musical genius shined when he replaced Eric Dolphy as the music director in drummer Chico Hamilton’s ensemble. Started working with Hamilton and his band in 1960, Lloyd took place in seven album recordings, where he was in charge of composition and arrangement.

*Towards the mid 1960’s, Charles Lloyd’s name was becoming well known as a composer as well as an improvisational performer, and his frequent visits to New York City helped him to become a part of the city’s jazz scene. While he was developing close relationships with names like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, he also joined Cannonball Adderley’s band in 1965 and took part in two albums, which were both released from Capitol Records.

*Same year Lloyd released his first solo album, Discovery!, which was produced by George Avakian and released from Columbia Records. A year after, he released his second album, Of Course, Of Course, for which he collaborated with important names like Gábor Szabó, Ron Carter and Tony Williams.

*1965 saw Lloyd forming his own impressive quartet with Cecil McBee at the bass, Jack DeJohnette at the drums and Keith Jarret at the piano. Becoming one of the most exciting bands of its period, the quartet released a total of seven albums in three years, -including exceptionally great Dream Weaver, Love-In and Journey Within- all released from Atlantic Records.

*Charles Lloyd Quartet continued to impress with live performances as well, and their unforgettable Monterey Pop Festival performance, where the bands’ brave blend of both modal and avant-garde jazz perspectives with eastern motifs attracted a lot of positive attention, became a milestone in Lloyd’s career. In 1966, this concert was released as a live  album with the name Forest Flower: Charles Lloyd and became one of the first jazz albums that reached a million in sales. One year later, now a quiet famous Charles Lloyd was chosen as the Best Jazz Performer Of The Year by Down Beat.

*After several Europe tours, tens of albums and various collaborations, Charles Lloyd made a surprising decision in early 1970’s. Moving to Big Sur in California, the musician chose a secluded lifestyle, focusing on meditation and his musical journey. Staying in Big Sur till 1981, 18 year-old French pianist Michael Petrucciani’s talent gave Lloyd the motivation to get back on the stage. Highly impressed by the young pianists skills, Lloyd accompanied Petrucciani in several albums and tours during early 1980’s.

*After his collaborations with Petrucciani, Lloyd went on to work with Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson and their quartet became a part of the prestigious ECM catalogue. Fish Out (1989) and Notes from Big Sur (1991) albums stand as two special highlights among this quartet’s recordings.

*Following 1990’s, Lloyd became a part of various recordings with musicians from different backgrounds and perspectives, such as famous pianist Brad Mehldau and Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain. His collaboration with Jason Moran gave birth to Rabo De Nube album in 2008, which turned a new page in Lloyd’s musical journey. Moran and Lloyd’s collaboration expanded in the following years, and in his 13th album from ECM, Mirror, Lloyd played with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland as well as Moran.

“The youngster in me is still alive and kicking. I was infected by music at a very young age, so it's always kept me younger than springtime.” –Charles Lloyd

*Jeffrey Morse’s documentary about Lloyd’s impressive career filled with tours and albums, Arrows Into Infinity, became one of the most talked about music documentaries of its year and received a lot of praise from many festivals. Lloyd’s manager and partner Dorothy Darr was among the producers of the documentary, which was released in DVD format by ECM in 2014.

*After a long and fruitful partnership with ECM, Lloyd switched to another prestigious record company, Blue Note, in 2015. In his first Blue Note album, Wild Man Dance, which was born from a project made for Jazztopod Festival, Lloyd shared the studio with Gerald Cleaver, Gerald Clayton and Joe Sanders. Lloyd carried on his tradition of inviting different sounds and structures from various cultures to his music in Wild Man Dance, which also features Hungarian cimbalom master Miklós Lukács and Greek lyra (also known as Cretan kemancha) player Sokrait Sinopoulos.

*Lloyd, whose musical career has touched upon a variety of path-breaking initiatives, has been recognized by many prestigious institutions. In 2014, Herbie Hancock personally handed him the honorary award at Monterey Jazz Festival’s Jazz Legends Gala and a year later was given an Honorary Doctorate by the Berklee College of Music. In 2016, Charles Lloyd, joining fellow jazz artists Phineas Newborn Jr., George Coleman and Howlin’ Wolf, was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

*With a musical career spanning over 60 years, Charles Lloyd is celebrating his 80th birthday this year with special projects. Releasing a new album with Blue Note this summer, the musician will take the stage in different festivals throughout the year with his various projects. In August, Lloyd plans to give three separate concerts in Newport Jazz Festival as part of a special residency program, performing with his Sangam, The New Quartet and Charles Lloyd & Friends projects.

*Lloyd’s upcoming album will be the second with his latest orchestra, The Marvels. Formed by Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz on guitar as well as long time associates Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland, The Marvels’ new album also includes the duet with Lucinda Williams, “Masters of War”, which was released as a single a few months back.

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