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Charles Lloyd Commemorates his 85th Year with a Memorable Performance at Jazz at Lincoln Center


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Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) honored Charles Lloyd on the occasion of his 85th birthday, featuring him in two concerts. The Friday night performance (October 13) showcased his trio, Sangam, which includes tabla master Zakir Hussain and long-time Lloyd associate, drummer Eric Harland. I had the privilege of attending the Saturday evening concert on October 14th, where Lloyd performed with his "New Quartet," comprising Reuben Rogers on bass, Eric Harland on drums, and Jason Moran on piano, musicians who have worked together for over 15 years. While Charles Lloyd has indisputably earned the status of an elder statesman in the world of jazz, he shows no signs of complacency or resting on his laurels. Lloyd was named Downbeat Artist of the Year this past year, an award first conferred upon him in 1967. He also received a lifetime achievement award from the Jazz Journalists Association. Lloyd's vitality as an artist and performer remains undiminished, as evidenced by his exceptional performance at the recent Newport Jazz Festival, which I recently reviewed for AAJ Day 3 at Newport Jazz Festival: Hearing the Future and Honoring the History. His ongoing contributions to jazz affirm his position as an enduring and remarkably vibrant figure in the musical world.

Jazz music can be enjoyed in various settings, from bustling street corners and public parks to noisy jazz clubs. However, experiencing this genre in an acoustically pristine room like the Rose Theater, a concert hall specifically designed for jazz performances, is an exceptional experience. In such a venue, one can fully appreciate the often-overlooked nuances, such as the unique timbres of a bass that might otherwise be inaudible and the crisp, distinctive sounds of clashing cymbals. The Rose Theater, the largest venue in the JALC complex, is a magnificent concert hall accommodating around 1,000 people.

The New Quartet delivered a splendid performance. Lloyd is a master of melodic improvisation, infused with a deep spiritual resonance. He spoke only briefly and alluded to living in troubled times. In the past, Lloyd has spoken eloquently about the healing powers of music and this time, he let the music do the talking. The 90-minute set featured mostly ballads with the band in outstanding form. Moran was prominently featured as a soloist and delivered a magnificent performance. Lloyd beamed with pride while observing Moran's solos, occasionally expressing his enthusiasm through a little shuffle and vocal exhortations. The set was splendid, but they saved the best for last, playing a gorgeous rendition of the traditional Mexican ballad, La Llorona. This magnificent composition has become a staple of Lloyd's performances, often closing the concert. The encore began with Moran taking the stage and playing rather delicately. Soon after, Harland and Rogers joined in at first, playing rather gently. Then, the trio gradually unveiled this most gorgeous Spanish-tinged ballad. Lloyd joined in, elevating the piece with some of his most emotionally charged playing. It was the transcendent moment of the evening.

In a book review by Ian Patterson, Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth, he reports on a 2010 interview with Josef Woodard in which Lloyd stated, "I approach the bandstand with the beginner's mind each night and hope that I will be met along the way. I hoist my sails to make ready for the winds of grace." I anticipate that Lloyd's musical journey has ample wind left in its sails.

In addition to the performance at Rose Theater, the slideshow includes photos drawn from various concerts in Montreal, Monterey, Newport, and the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.
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