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Charles Lloyd 85th Birthday Celebration

Words by Jazz at Naz host Reggie Quinerly(March 18th)

With its gentle twists and bends, the Mississippi River has inspired both wonder and contemplation for countless artists. Among these is famed saxophonist and composer, Charles Lloyd. A native of Memphis Tennessee, Lloyd’s intrinsic connection to the Mississippi River shores inspired an overall sense of reverence for nature. This is reflected in his music, as each dynamic swell, bend of pitch, or cascading phrase seems to pay homage to great expanse of the outdoors.

In celebration of his 85th birthday, Llyod will be presenting two special trios at the Soraya. His Ocean Trio features pianist Gerald Clayton, and guitarist Anthony Wilson. He will also appear with his Chapel Trio, which includes guitarist Bill Frisell, and bassist Larry Grenadier. Lloyd collaborated with both groups on two of the three recordings in Trio of Trios, his most recent release for Blue Note Records. Each album in this collector’s item vinyl set presents a distinct dialogue with its own musical vocabulary. And yet, they are unified by Lloyd’s spacious tone.

Lloyd fondly recalls his days as an aspiring musician in the 1940s. Walking through the streets of Memphis, he heard the regal sounds of Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, and Count Basie emanating from the neighbors’ radios and record players. Also prevalent in the regional milieu were the sounds of the black church, folk songs, vocal quartets, dance bands, early rock and roll and the sun-drenched sound of the blues, which had long found it’s home on the famed Beale Street. He eventually found himself on the bandstand conjuring these musical reminiscences. These experiences formed a strong appreciation for the beauty and emotional quality that can be delivered through a melody.

After nurturing his roots along the Mississippi River, he moved to Los Angeles in the mid 1950s and found a fertile artistic landscape that enabled him grow and blossom. As a music student at the University of Southern California, he quickly embedded himself in a burgeoning group of like-minded musicians, including, drummer Billy Higgins, vibraphonist Bobby Hutchinson and trumpeter Don Cherry. While still heavily influenced by the previous generations of musicians, slightly more seasoned musical stalwarts like bassist Charles Mingus, saxophonists Eric Dolphy, and Ornette Coleman shone as beacons to Lloyd and his direct contemporaries. A newfound level of musical freedom was on the horizon, and each formative experience on the bandstand was an opportunity to expand his palette of musical colors.

Recordings from over the past sixty years serve as testament that Lloyd is still expanding, still searching, and still discovering new approaches to the music – all while taking his audiences along for the journey. With over fifty recordings as a leader (over ten released in the last ten years), he seems to have tapped into a well-spring of creativity that shows little to no sign of drying up any time soon.


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