The Kennedy Center

Charles Lloyd


While still in his teens, saxophonist Charles Lloyd, who was born in 1938, played backup gigs on the Memphis club scene with blues/R&B legends like Howlin' Wolf, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Johnny Ace and B.B. King. In 1956, he moved to Los Angeles, received a Master Degree in music at USC, and played at West Coast jazz clubs with Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Scott LaFaro, and Charlie Haden. In 1960, he moved to New York to replace Eric Dolphy in Chico Hamilton's band, and then in 1964 joined Cannonball Adderly for a year. He recorded his first records as leader in 1964/1965 for CBS, called Discovery and Of Course, Of Course, with Gabor Szabo, Ron Carter, Don Freidman, Roy Haynes and Tony Williams as sidedmen. Then in 1966, he formed the original Charles Lloyd Quartet that introduced pianist Keith Jarrett and drummer Jack DeJohnette. This group became one of the most popular jazz groups in the world, playing in more than 40 countries around the world. It was the first jazz group to play the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, where they played regularly on bills with the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, etc. At the apex of the Cold War, the Quartet became the first American jazz group to perform in the Soviet Union. Forest Flower, recorded live at the 1966 Monterey Jazz Festival was one of the first jazz records to become a Gold Record, eventually selling more than a million copies worldwide. During the 1970's, Lloyd moved to Big Sur to pursue Eastern spiritual paths. He made an occasional recording that reflected his interest in the meditative life, but few concert appearances. In 1981, he discovered a unique 17-year old French pianist, Michel Petrucciani and their two year musical collaboration produced several European tours and two live recordings, Live In Montreux (Elektra/Musician) and A Night in Copenhagen (Blue Note). Lloyd returned to the international jazz scene in 1988, when he formed a new quartet with the Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson and toured throughout Europe and appeared at various international festivals. In 1990, Germany’s ECM Records recorded Charles Lloyd’s Fish Out of Waterfeaturing pianist Bobo Stenson, bassist Palle Danielsson and drummer Jon Christensen. Notes From Big Sur (ECM 1992), featured Stenson, bassist Anders Jormin and Ralph Peterson on drums. The Call was the first recording by the new, permanent Charles Lloyd Quartet featuring pianist Stenson, bassist Jormin and Billy Hart on drums. Charles Lloyd returned to America in 1992 to perform at New York's Carnegie Hall with McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones in a special tribute to John Coltrane as part of the JVC Jazz Festival. The new Charles Lloyd Quartet made its first American tour in June 1993. Charles Lloyd was booked to play at The Blue Note in New York City during the week of September 11, 2001. His performances were postponed until later in the week when the saxophonist presented a beautiful and healing experience that allowed listeners to put aside their fears and doubts for awhile and immerse themselves in Lloyd’s moods and meditations. The result of those performances, “Lift Every Voice,'' which also became a two CD set, is a stunning musical evening that begins and ends with original pieces called ''Hymn to the Mother'' and ''Prayer, the Crossing.'' separated by a mix of original compositions, rearranged pop tunes, spirituals, and other songs.

“Lloyd underwent one of the rarest of experiences for a jazz musician: he became a star.” (Tom Conrad, Down Beat magazine)

February 2003
Photo of Charles Lloyd Quintet