Blog

“A music of freedom and wonder...”:
Charles Lloyd

Blog
“A music of freedom and wonder...”: Charles Lloyd

29.07.2019

Text: Leyla Aksu
Illustration: Saydan Akşit

Legendary jazz musician Charles Lloyd has led the charge to expand the parameters of the genre throughout a career spanning over 60 years. As a composer, arranger, and master tenor saxophonist, known for his improvisational skills, expressive and refined tone, and penchant for innovation, Lloyd’s work has run the spectrum from traditional jazz standards to avant-garde and free jazz experimentations, a fusion of global cultural influences, and cross-overs into popular music. A dynamic and vital performer devoted to the transformational power of jazz, Charles Lloyd will be heading to Istanbul’s Cemal Reşit Rey this October, along with his Sky Trio, comprised of Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums, and guests Gerald Clayton and Marvin Sewell. Below we take a look at some of the highlights from Lloyd’s journey and his unremitting pursuit of music.

Born in Memphis, TN in 1938, Charles Lloyd got his first taste of his hometown’s music scene at a very early age. Even before getting his first saxophone, his mother’s house offered a place to stay for musicians in the segregated city, hosting names like Duke Ellington and Count Basie. “When I got a saxophone at the age of nine, it became my voice. I wanted to sing on it,” Lloyd said of his instrument, going on to study under Irvin Reason, Willie Mitchell, and legendry pianist Phineas Newborn Jr., while fostering a growing interest in the genre through contemporary radio broadcasts. Diving into the local scene by the time he was a teenager, he played with high school friends Booker Little and George Coleman and found his footing as a sideman, taking the stage alongside Johnny Ace, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Howlin’ Wolf, and B.B. King.

Afterwards, Lloyd made his way to Los Angeles in the mid-1950’s to attend the University of Southern California to study classical music. Establishing a presence on the west coast scene, he played in Gerald Wilson’s big band and started gigging at local clubs with fellow musicians Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, and Billy Higgins. He then joined drummer Chico Hamilton’s band as composer and music director in 1960. Taking the newly departed Dolphy’s place in the group, he made his mark as not only a master saxophonist but a composer and arranger, and from there, he went onto Cannonball Adderley’s sextet just a few years later.

A frequent guest of the New York jazz scene during these years, Lloyd was offered a contract with Columbia Records to showcase his own work, starting with the album Discovery! (1964). Establishing his own quartet, he recruited a young Keith Jarrett on piano, Cecil McBee on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums, creating one of the boldest and most exciting bands of the era. Released in 1966, the group’s Forest Flowers: Live at Monterey made music history as the first jazz record to sell a million copies, a melding of genres that made a splash not only in the jazz community but the music world at large. While sending a ripple through the genre, the impact of Forest Flowers also brought Lloyd a brand new audience and collaborations with the Beach Boys, the Doors, and the Grateful Dead, and just the following year, he was named Jazz Artist of the Year by DownBeat Magazine.

Despite being at the height of their success, however, after a string of highly successful releases, in 1969, Lloyd disbanded his quartet and moved to Big Sur, California, for a long and unexpected retreat: “I wanted to change the world with music as a young man. Then I realized I wasn’t doing that, so I decided I had better go away and work on changing myself, which is a lifelong endeavor.” Popping up on recordings here and there for occasional collaborations, he remained out of the spotlight until meeting French pianist Michel Petrucciani. Joining the young musician on tour and in the studio during the early 1980’s, Lloyd returned to his California home once again but would come back to music before the decade was over--this time with a deal with legendary label ECM and a new quartet with Bobo Stenson.

Also featuring Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen in its lineup, the group’s first release was Fish Out of Water (1990), the beginning of a new era of productivity, innovation, and increased simplicity in Lloyd’s output, and one that would produce a multitude of albums across 25 years. Felt to be "the refined essence of what music should be,” by Manfred Eicher, the period brought new collaborations with pianist Brad Mehldau, guitarist John Abercrombie, drummer Billy Higgins, and Greek vocalist Maria Farantouri. Lloyd also created the currently ongoing Sangram Trio in 2006 with Indian tabla player Zakir Hussain and drummer Eric Harland, and the following year he formed his “new quartet” with Harland once again, as well as Jason Moran on keys and Reuben Rogers on bass, releasing their first recording, the live Rabo de Nube, in 2008.

Combing the world for inspiration from traditions, instrumentation, and collaborators for all of his projects, Lloyd departed from ECM in 2015 and signed with another historic label, Blue Note. His debut for the label came in the form of Wild Man Dance, a commission initially given by the Jazztopad Festival. After that release, Lloyd formed his still-running all-star group The Marvels with Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz, in addition to Harland and Rogers, adding the unusual texture of pedal steel to a unique flavor of Americana-tinged jazz. After the group’s first full-length together, I Long to See You in 2016, they reconvened two years later for a collaboration with Lucinda Williams, entitled Vanishing Gardens. Likening his experience with The Marvels to his time back in Memphis, Lloyd described the album by saying, “I don’t think there’s any precedent for it...”

Now, in his 81st year, the multi-award-winning artist says he is still as taken with music as ever and speaks of jazz as "a music of freedom and wonder. It uplifts, it inspires, it touches the heart, and it heals. It is transformational... I have been drunk with the pursuit of ‘the sound’ all my life--and have been blessed to stand on the shoulders of those who came before me and gave encouragement--this is also part of the tradition."

You may also like

Follow Us
TR EN
Filter events by label
03 AUG MON
-
04 AUG TUE
-
05 AUG WED
-
06 AUG THU
-
07 AUG FRI
-
08 AUG SAT
-
09 AUG SUN
-
10 AUG MON
-
11 AUG TUE
-
12 AUG WED
-
13 AUG THU
-
14 AUG FRI
-
15 AUG SAT
-
16 AUG SUN
-
17 AUG MON
-
18 AUG TUE
-
19 AUG WED
-
20 AUG THU
-
21 AUG FRI
-
22 AUG SAT
-
23 AUG SUN
-

Every state of art is in Akbank Sanat’s digital channels,
to make you stay at home but not be without art.

Akbank Sanat will be temporarily closed until the end of August.

Add event to your calendar

Subscribe to Newsletter