Charles Lloyd (born March 15, 1938 in Memphis, Tennessee) is an American jazz musician. Though he primarily plays tenor saxophone and flute, he has occasionally recorded on other reed instruments, including alto saxophone and the Hungarian tárogató.
Lloyd's working band since 2007 features pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Eric Harland.
Charles Lloyd grew up in Memphis and was exposed to blues, gospel and jazz. He is of African, Cherokee, Mongolian, and Irish ancestry. He was given his first saxophone at the age of 9 and was riveted by 1940s radio broadcasts by Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. His early teachers included pianist Phineas Newborn, Jr. and saxophonist Irvin Reason. His closest childhood friend was trumpeter Booker Little. As a teenager Lloyd played jazz with saxophonist George Coleman, Harold Mabern, and Frank Strozier, and was a sideman for Johnny Ace, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King.
In 1956 Lloyd left Memphis for Los Angeles to earn a degree in music at the University of Southern California, where he studied with Halsey Stevens, whose speciality was Bartók. At night, he played in jazz clubs with Ornette Coleman, Billy Higgins, Scott LaFaro, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Eric Dolphy, Bobby Hutcherson and other leading west coast jazz artists. He also was a member of the Gerald Wilson big band.
In 1960 Lloyd was invited to become music director of Chico Hamilton's group when Eric Dolphy left to join Charles Mingus's band. The Hungarian guitarist Gábor Szabó and bassist [[Albert Stinson|Albert "Sparky" Stinson]also Trombonist Charles Bohanan] soon joined Lloyd in the band. Hamilton's albums on Impulse!, Passin' Thru and Man from Two Worlds, featured music arranged and written almost entirely by Lloyd. He collaborated with Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji, with whom he played when he wasn't on the road with Hamilton. He joined the Cannonball Adderley Sextet in 1964, and performed with Nat Adderley, Joe Zawinul, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes. For two years he remained with Cannonball Adderley, whom he credits in his own development as a leader.
In 1964 Lloyd signed with CBS Records and began to record as a leader. His Columbia recordings, Discovery! (1964), and Of Course, Of Course (1965), featured Roy Haynes and Tony Williams on drums, Richard Davis and Ron Carter on bass, Gabor Szabo on guitar and Don Friedman on piano, and led to his being voted Down Beat magazine's "New Star." Of Course, Of Course was reissued on Mosaic Records in 2006.
Lloyd left Cannonball Adderley in 1965 to form his own quartet, an ensemble that included pianist Keith Jarrett, drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Cecil McBee. Their first release together was a studio recording, Dream Weaver, followed by Forest Flower: Live at Monterey (1966). Forest Flower was one of the first jazz recordings to sell a million copies, becoming a crossover success with airplay on FM radio.
Lloyd's Quartet was the first jazz group to appear at the famed Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, where they recorded Love-In(1967). The quartet fused improvisation, avant-garde jazz, and free jazz with the psychedelic rock of the 1960s. Lloyd was invited to play with pop and rock acts such as the Doors, the Byrds, Aashish and Pranesh Khan, and the Beach Boys. Miles Davis and other jazz figures were influenced. The Quartet also shared billing with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Cream, the Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane.
In 1967 Lloyd was voted "Jazz Artist of the Year" by Down Beat magazine, and the Quartet was invited to tour the world. The Lloyd Quartet found a warm reception in Europe at the new jazz festivals in Montreux, Antibes, and Molde. Its performances in the Far East, the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc nations of Europe often marked the first time these audiences had heard an American jazz group live.
Lloyd is given credit for anticipating world music by incorporating music from other cultures into his compositions, as early as the late 1950s. He describes his music as having "danced on many shores". Peter Watrous stated, "Lloyd has come up with a strange and beautiful distillation of the American experience, part abandoned and wild, part immensely controlled and sophisticated."
In 1967, his Quartet became the first jazz group from the U.S. to play in the USSR by invitation of the Soviet people rather than through government sponsorship. Its first stop was Tallinn and subsequent concerts took place in Leningrad and Moscow. The Tallinn concert was recorded and later issued as Charles Lloyd in the Soviet Union.
Despite recording several albums during the 1970s and occasionally appearing as a sideman, he practically disappeared from the jazz scene. During the 1970s Lloyd played extensively with the Beach Boys both on their studio recordings and as a member of their touring band. He was a member of Celebration, a band composed of members of the Beach Boys' touring band as well as Mike Love and Al Jardine. Celebration released two albums.
Lloyd returned to the jazz world in 1981 when he toured with Michel Petrucciani. British jazz critic Brian Case called Lloyd's return "one of the events of the 1980s." The group produced a special edition cassette, Night Blooming Jasmine, and two live records, Montreux 82 and A Night in Copenhagen, which also features Bobby McFerrin. After the tour, Lloyd again retreated to Big Sur.
In 1986, after being hospitalized with a nearly fatal medical condition, Lloyd rededicated himself to music. When he regained his strength in 1988 he formed a new quartet with Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson. When Lloyd returned to the Montreux Festival in 1988, Swiss critic Yvan Ischer wrote: "To see and hear Charles Lloyd in concert is always an event, not only because this saxophonist has been at quite a few crossroads, but also because he seems to hold an impalpable truth which makes him a thoroughly original musician...This is what we call grace."
In 1989 Lloyd made his first recording for ECM Records, Fish Out of Water. Manfred Eicher, ECM's founder and producer, compared the recording to a Giacometti painting, saying, "I really believe this is the refined essence of what music should be. All the meat is gone, only the bones remain." From 1989, Lloyd toured and recorded for ECM. Noteworthy albums include Canto, Voice in the Night, The Water Is Wide (featuring Brad Mehldau, John Abercrombie, Larry Grenadier and Billy Higgins), Lift Every Voice (featuring Geri Allen), and the live Rabo de Nube (with Jason Moran).
Lloyd's albums for ECM contain elements of world music and experimentation, as in the duets on Which Way Is East with his longtime friend, Billy Higgins.
Mirror, his second recording with the New Quartet (2010), has been called a "Charles Lloyd classic." Rabo de Nube, also on ECM, captured the quartet "live" at its inception, and was voted No. 1 recording for the 2008 JazzTimes Reader's and Critic's Poll.
Lloyd collaborated with the classical Greek singer, Maria Farantouri, for a concert at the Herodion Theater at the Acropolis. Ta Nea, a newspaper in Athens, stated "Music has no borders...The audience was filled with a Dionysian ecstasy. While the music had reminiscences of a Hypiros fair, at the same time it took you to the heart of New York City." This concert was recorded and Athens Concert was released by ECM in 2011.
Lloyd celebrated his 75th birthday in 2013 with concerts in the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum and the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. On June 25, 2014 it was announced that Lloyd will receive the NEA Jazz Masters Award 2015. Lloyd was the Honoree at the 2014 Monterey Jazz Festival Jazz Legends Gala, hosted by Herbie Hancock. Lloyd was the recipient of the 2014 Alfa Jazz Fest International Music Award. In January 2015, it was announced that Lloyd had signed with Blue Note Records. Wild Man Dance, a live recording of a long-form suite commissioned by the Jazztopad Festival in Wroclaw, Poland, was released in April 2015. Lloyd was presented with an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the Berklee College of Music in a ceremony at the Umbria Jazz Festival in July 2015. In 2016, Lloyd was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.
Lloyd lives in Southern California with his wife, Dorothy Darr.
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