Charles Lloyd life and biography

Charles Lloyd picture, image, poster

Charles Lloyd biography

Date of birth : 1938-03-15
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2011-12-09
Credited as : jazz musician, saxophonist, "Forest Flower"

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Charles Lloyd is an American jazz musician. Though he primarily plays tenor saxophone and flute, he has also occasionally recorded on alto saxophone and more exotic reed instruments which include the Hungarian tárogató. Lloyd's saxophone playing is often characterized as an individualized, lighter-toned variant of John Coltrane's style. His best known composition is "Forest Flower".

Composer/tenor saxophonist Charles Lloyd was one of the first jazz musicians to sell a million copies of a recording ("Forest Flower"), to predate the World Music movement by decades by infusing his music with sounds of distant shores, and to funnel the psychedelic sound of the 1960s into avant-garde jazz improvisation. Lloyd worked with some of jazz and blues usic's legends--Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Eric Dolphy, Charlie Haden, Howlin' Wolf, Cannonball Adderley, B.B. King, Babatunde Olatunji, and Chico Hamilton--and counted among his friends and peers musicians such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Coleman Hawkins. Lloyd was voted "Jazz Artist of the Year" by Down Beat magazine in 1967 and was part of the first American jazz group to play in the Soviet Union by invitation of the Soviet people. He paved the entranceway for jazz to enter the realm of rock, and has thrived for four decades. Wired magazine's James Rozzi wrote, "Nary a review is written about saxophonist Charles Lloyd without mentioning his kinship to John Coltrane, both sonic and spiritual. But while Coltrane's sound became more strident with time, Lloyd's has grown lush and haunting."

Charles Lloyd was born in 1938 in Memphis, TN, approximately 400 miles north of New Orleans on the Mississippi river. Memphis boasted a rich musical heritage, encompassing blues, gospel, and jazz, and Lloyd soaked it all in: he was given his first saxophone at the age of nine. Radio broadcasts of Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington riveted Lloyd in the 1940s, and his childhood friend, Booker Little, turned out to be a lauded trumpet player. Lloyd's teachers in Memphis were luminaries such as pianist Phineas Newborn and saxophonist George Coleman. While still a teenager, Lloyd played sideman for blues greats B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Ace, and Bobby Blue Bland.

At the age of eighteen Lloyd left Memphis to study for his Master's in Music at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Lloyd studied classical music under Halsey Stevens, who was considered the foremost authority on Bartok. Although he spent his days in an atmosphere of academia, his evenings were spent playing in jazz clubs with Ornette Coleman, Charlie Haden, Eric Dolphy, Billy Higgins, Scott LaFaro, and other west coast jazz titans in local clubs. In 1960, at the age of twenty-two, Lloyd became the music director of drummer Chico Hamilton's group after Eric Dolphy left to join Charles Mingus. Hungarian guitarist Gabor Szabo and Albert "Sparky" Stinson joined Lloyd in the band, and it was during this period of prolific composing that Lloyd found his unique sound as a saxophonist. The two most memorable recordings with Hamilton, Passin' Through and Man from Two Worlds, were his own compositions. Lloyd moved to New York City in the early 1960s and played at noted jazz clubs like Birdland, the Village Vanguard, the Half-Note, Jazz Gallery, and the Five-Spot. Along the way he befriended Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus, and Coleman Hawkins; he also collaborated with Babatunde Olatunji when he wasn't on the road with Hamilton.

In 1964, at the age of twenty-six, Lloyd joined the Cannonball Adderley sextet, playing alongside Nat Adderley, Joe Zawinul, Sam Jones, and Louis Hayes. He also signed a contract with CBS Records to record as a leader, and released Discovery in 1964 and Of Course, Of Course in 1965, with Roy Haynes and Tony Williams on drums, Richard Davis and Ron Carter on bass, Gabor Szabo on guitar, and Don Friedman on piano. That same year Lloyd won Down Beat magazine's "Best New Artist" award. Lloyd left the Cannonball Adderley sextet in 1965 to form his own quartet, which included Keith Jarrett on piano, Jack DeJonette on drums, and Cecil McBee on bass. Their debut release was Dream Weaver, followed by Forest Flower: Live at Moneterey in 1966. Forest Flower earned a place in history as as one of the first jazz recordings to sell a million copies.

Lloyd's acoustic quartet made a smooth crossover to the popular mass market due to heavy FM radio airplay. The quartet was the first jazz group to play at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco and other rock venues, sharing stages with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Cream, the Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane. The quartet also made the traditional jazz festival rounds: Montreux, Antibes, Molde, the Newport Jazz Festival, and the Monterey Jazz Festival. The group melded masterful jazz improvisation with elements of ethnic music, impressionistic harmony, and sporadic rock rhythms. Their open-ended, acoustic musical flights of fancy mirrored the freewheeling spirit of the 1960s, and Lloyd was free to experiment with a constantly changing combination of musical tropes. Electric jazz and rock fused together at the time, and Lloyd was one of the first jazz artists to reach younger fans in the psychedelic era, paving the way for musicians like Miles Davis to further push the envelope.

In 1967, at the age of twenty-nine, Lloyd was voted "Jazz Artist of the Year" by Down Beat magazine, and the quartet toured throughout the world, playing in China, the Soviet Union, and Eastern Bloc countries that had never been exposed to live American jazz performances. At the height of the Cold War, Lloyd's quartet made headlines in the New York Times, Life, and Time magazine when they were the first American jazz group invited to play in the Soviet Union. The quartet played in Tallinn in Estonia, Leningrad, and Moscow. When audience members in Tallinn heard the KGB might not let the group play, they began screaming, "Lloyd jazz! Lloyd jazz!" When Lloyd returned to Estonia in 1997, Marju Kuut--who saw his group's original performance--told Down Beat magazine's Thomas Conrad, "Europeans played in jazz, but something was missing. Lloyd was real, real American jazz. They didn't play for ... show. They played for themselves."

At the peak of his career momentum in 1971, Lloyd dropped from public sight to pursue an inner quest in Big Sur, CA, the unorthodox haven that had attracted artists and musicians such as Robinson Jeffers, Langston Hughes, Henry Miller, Lawrence Ferlingetti, and Jack Kerouac. He spent a decade in solitude from the media, then broke his public silence after meeting a gifted seventeen-year-old pianist from France at big Sur named Michel Petrucciani. Lloyd's collaboration with Petrucciani led to European and Japanese tours in 1982 and 1983. Along with Petrucciani on piano and Lloyd on saxophone, Son Ship Theus played drums, and Palle Danielsson played bass; the group produced two live records: Montreux '82 and A Night in Copenhagen-- which featured Bobby McFerrin. Lloyd formed a new quartet in 1988 with the Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson, and Lloyd referred to the group as "the full-service orchestra of love". In 1989 Lloyd released Fish Out of Water. In 1991, he released Notes from Big Sur, followed by The Call in 1993, All My Relations in 1994, and Canto in 1997 (Lloyd played the Tibetan oboe for Canto). Linton Chiswick of Gramophone wrote, "Canto has the most exquisite opening of any jazz record made in a very long time.... Canto is a masterpiece. Resonant with the fragile, ethereal concentration that forms the life-force of Lloyd's music, it is the sound of a group that hasactually managed to create its own language."

Selective Works:
- Discovery, CBS Records, 1964.
-Of Course, Of Course, CBS, 1965.
-Forest Flower: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival, CBS, 1967.
-Montreux '82, Blue Note Records, 1982.
-A Night in Copenhagen, Blue Note, 1982.
-Fish Out of Water, ECM Records, 1989.
-Notes From Big Sur, ECM, 1991.
-The Call, ECM, 1993.
-All My Relations, ECM, 1994.
-Canto, ECM, 1997.
-With Chico Hamilton Passin' Through, Impulse Records, 1961.
-Man From Two Worlds, Impulse, 1962.

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