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Charles Lloyd: A Reporter of Life's Experience

AAJ Staff By

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Submitted on behalf of Charles Lloyd

At 65, approaching my 66th year, I am playing with one of the greatest bands I have had. Geri Allen, Robert Hurst, Eric Harland and on special occasions we make it a quintet with John Abercrombie.

Each time we play together the waters get deeper and more thrilling for me. My job is to keep the boat afloat and pointed toward the other shore - to report on where we have been and where we are going. There have been a lot of rough seas and tempests out there, but every now and then the waters calm down, the sails fill with a steady wind and we move forward effortlessly. The winds of grace are always blowing, but our sails must be set high.

I think of myself as a reporter of life's experience. Music is the most direct expression of that experience. It transcends language, bridges cultures - goes directly and deeply to the heart. Every day I try to find a more direct and simplified way to make that expression. In our collective effort to elevate the eloquence and beauty of the translation, we become greater than any one part - when that happens all of the struggle and fatigue from getting on and off planes, through the x-ray machines, in and out of hotels - all of that recedes to a vague inconsequential memory once we hit the first note together.

This is not an easy time to be on planet earth. Brilliant minds have created technologies that have eliminated geographical distance while inadvertently shortening our attention span at the same time. Modern day conveniences such as the automobile, air conditioning, and hairspray have depleted the ozone layer. Innumerable consequences from that. The planet is warming up and we are still in search of fossil fuel to keep the auto industry afloat. The industry claims to be accomodating consumer needs - but without proper information and education, how can they intelligently decide what they need?

It seems that I have had a reputation for having my head in the clouds, no footing on terra firma, always swimming upstream, against the current... could be true.

I admit to having extremes.

Periods of extreme depression and despair for humanity.

Periods of extreme seclusion which I leave only to make music in a public way.

Periods of extreme exhilaration that comes from making music.

When I asked Master Higgins (my co-conspirator to create world peace through the beauty of music) how I could keep that feeling of exhilaration he told me, "You ain't the Man. You can only have that when He gives it to you."

The politicians of the world have gotten off course.

Smoke and mirrors are the tools of the trade.

But what about the constitution and upholding that document?

There are many ways to tell a lie, but one way to tell the truth.

Love is Truth.

As a friend of mine is always saying, "What you think about, you bring about. What you focus on grows."

I choose to focus on the power of Love.

Having led one of the most popular jazz bands from the mid to late '60s, featuring pianist Keith Jarrett and drummer Jack DeJohnette as well as bassist Cecil McBee (later replaced by Ron McClure), Charles Lloyd has fully explored the jazz spectrum. His early experiences with bandleader Gerald Wilson eventually led to his becoming a member of Chico Hamilton's quintet and then Cannonball Adderley's sextet before he formed his own renowned group. However through the '70s and up until the early '80s, Lloyd's musical activities were sporadic at best. Becoming less active in the jazz world, he retreated instead to his home in the cliffs of Big Sur in northern California. But after being persuaded to return to public performing and recording by pianist Michel Petrucciani, Lloyd began an association with ECM Records that has lasted from his debut release for the label in 1989 ( Fish Out of Water ) to his 9th and most recent, last year's double-disc Lift Every Voice.


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