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Artist Profiles

Charles Lloyd: His Mystical Journey

By Published: September 20, 2007
Though the blues envelopes all he plays, the majority of Lloyd's music is an extension of the 1960s modal explorations of his youth—it is similar but certainly not regurgitated. Lloyd's playing is never predictable. He surprises his listeners in every solo he plays, leaving them awed at his power, range, technical facility, and tenderness. Free jazz enthusiasts find excitement in the wild abandonment and energetic yet intimate communication achieved by his groups.

Particularly notable is his Sangam trio. Featuring Lloyd on reeds, tabla master Zakir Hussain, and the dynamic young drummer Eric Harland, this group unites jazz and Indian classical music with elegance and integrity. There is no gimmickry here—it is an authentic, unpretentious fusion of two disparate and distinct traditions. Sangam's performances are astounding and virtuosic—filled with high energy, telepathic communication between the three men while retaining the warmth and mysticism that have characterized all phases of Lloyd's musical journey.

Lloyd's music is complex and advanced, yet even in its most adventurous moments it remains accessible. He is one of the purest melodists alive today, blessed with the ability to sing through his instrument and tug at the emotions of all who hear him. After hearing Billie Holiday early in his life, he yearned to become a singer, but realized he did not have the voice. He soon got his first saxophone, vowing to express himself and sing passionately through his horn. Like that of a vocalist, his music weaves through a wide gamut of emotions—reflective, joyous, dark, mellow, and reaching—and it always stays grounded by retaining its earthy folkiness.

Charles Lloyd Taking all of this into consideration, it is no surprise that Lloyd's audience is demographically diverse and well-distributed throughout. Look around a Charles Lloyd show and you will see hardcore jazz fanatics young and old, teenagers, college students, Americans, Europeans, Indians, first and second generation hippies, rock fans, hipsters, neo-beatniks and more. It is a marvelous sight and a pertinent cultural rarity, if for only one night, to see people unite spiritually and be transported by the music of one man.

There is a genuine universality in the music of Charles Lloyd. He acts as a conduit of the varied experiences of life, channeling Zen-like peacefulness and understanding to his listeners. His dedication to the music is stronger than ever and his approach is more purposeful. Passionate and sincere, each breath blown through his instrument has deep significance. This truly comes to light when seeing him perform. Audiences can not only hear, but see and feel his intent as his presence on stage is magically captivating and utterly heart warming.

As he approaches his seventieth year, Charles Lloyd has solidified his place as one of the few living jazz giants. His popularity and reverence has equaled if not surpassed that of his classic quartet in the late 1960s. He has again surrounded himself with outstanding musicians who are sensitive and responsive to his distinctive musical perspective. Today, Lloyd's playing is inspired, mature, and deeply heartfelt as he forges onward and reaches for transcendence.

Selected Discography

Charles Lloyd, Sangam (ECM, 2006)
Charles Lloyd,
Jumping the Creek (ECM, 2005)
Charles Lloyd/Billy Higgins, Which Way is East (ECM, 2004)
Charles Lloyd, Hyperion With Higgins (ECM, 2001)
Charles Lloyd, Voice in the Night (ECM, 1999)
Charles Lloyd, Canto (ECM, 1997)
Charles Lloyd, The Call (ECM, 1993)
Charles Lloyd, Acoustic Masters I (Atlantic, 1993)
Charles Lloyd, Fish Out of Water (ECM, 1990)
Charles Lloyd, A Night in Copenhagen (Blue Note, 1983)
Charles Lloyd, Soundtrack (Atlantic, 1969)
Charles Lloyd, Forest Flower (Atlantic, 1966)

Photo Credits
Top Photo: Ben Johnson
Bottom Photo: Jos L. Knaepen

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