A Fireside Chat with Charles Lloyd
CL: I have given other solo concerts, though it is something that most promoters shy away from. The first one was in 1983 at the Seattle Opera House. The second was in 1993 at St. Mary's Cathedral as part of SF Jazz. Any performance is a challenge - whatever the context, solo, duo, quartet, quintet. I can only beg the creator to give me a connection. That is where it comes from. The April 3 date in San Francisco will be an homage to Master Higgins - a very special event that will have a photo exhibit and video material from his stay with me. Eric Harland is going to come out. Robert Hurst will participate, as well as Zakir Hussain who teamed up with me for an incredible concert at Grace Cathedral in November 2001.
AAJ: With so much of today's audience subjected to the five second sound bite, have you had to augment your approach?
CL: It is not in my nature to be that analytical about my approach. Attention spans are shorter and shorter, true. The one thing I can say is that I beg the creator to let me be an open vessel. I try to get out of the way. If I put myself in there, there might not be any wind to fill my sails. I know the winds of grace are always blowing. I must raise my sails high enough to catch the breeze.
AAJ: Modest, is that a Memphis thing?
CL: As Master Higgins used say say of me, "He's got mud on his feet." But I got that on my grandfather's farm in Mississippi where I spent a lot of my infancy and childhood.
AAJ: You toured the former Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War.
CL: The people were repressed by politics, but their hunger for freedom made them want our music even more. I think they recognized the music was our own path to personal freedoms.
AAJ: Why the self-imposed hiatus?
CL: I was a time bomb waiting to detonate, burned out, sick of the music business, out of touch with everything and heavily abusing various substances, disillusioned with life, and intensely needed to work on my character. The only way I could see to do that was to withdraw completely from public life as I had known it before.
AAJ: What is the driving force behind your creativity?
AAJ: Spirituality these days is often ignored.
CL: Spirituality is a word that is bandied about a lot. So I think it might mean different things to different people. I know that the United States of America is something of a religious country, but not necessarily a spiritual country.
AAJ: There is a certain romance residing in the comforts of Big Sur.
CL: Life in Big Sur is a way to recharge the batteries, but it is also a battle with the elements. Man is very small compared to nature. In 1983 or '84, there was a season of tremendous rain and much of our road to town to the North and eventually, to the South, washed out for many months. When we needed to go to town to get groceries and such, we had to hike to the top of our mountain and then down to a place on the far side of the massive slide in order to find a vehicle to get to town.
AAJ: Champagne wishes and caviar dreams?
CL: I dream of a peaceful world. Music is the best means I have to work on that dream. Each time I have the opportunity to play, it is another chance to tell the truth. Life on the planet has come down to such an acute degree of ADD it is terrifying. We are constantly being bombarded from all directions with information - most of it useless that serves to bifurcate the mind. I am afraid that people are going to go from birth to death and never know they were here or why they were here.
The Charles Lloyd Quartet, Dream Weaver (Atlantic, 1966)
Charles Lloyd, Forest Flower (Atlantic, 1966)
Charles Lloyd, Canto (ECM, 1996)
Charles Lloyd, Voice in the Night (ECM, 1999)
Charles Lloyd, Lift Every Voice (ECM, 2002)
Charles Lloyd/Billy Higgins, Which Way Is East (ECM, 2004)