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Charles Lloyd Quartet

The players are:

  • Charles Lloyd – tenor saxophone
  • Geri Allen – piano
  • Robert Hurst – bass
  • Eric Harland - drums

More than one of the last great tenor saxophonists, Charles Lloyd stands as a prism through which defining moments in the contemporary history of jazz can be viewed, and the light is refracting as brightly today as at any previous outpost in his colourful and often enigmatic career.

Lloyd describes himself as having “danced on many shores”, a telling metaphor for a man born in 1938 in the river town of Memphis, Tennessee and steeped in its rich heritage of blues and gospel. Over the ensuing decades, the gossamer sound and soaring phrases of his tenor have punctuated the post-bop period, insinuated itself into popular culture, skirted the avant garde and embraced a host of diverse musical cultures long before world music was in vogue.

Memphis was already in its musical pomp, and by his early teens, Lloyd was picking up gigs with Bobby Bland, Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King, before decamping to Los Angeles in ’56 for classical studies by day, and the nocturnal education of the city’s jazz clubs. An extended period as musical director to Chico Hamilton plus a stint with Cannonball Adderly was to follow, before breaking new ground in the mid sixties with a quartet that heralded the arrival of one Keith Jarrett. It was a heady time. 1969’s Forest Flower captured the zeitgeist, selling an unprecedented million copies, the quartet bucking cold war politics with a tour to the Soviet Union and closer to home, headlining at The Fillmore with The Grateful Dead.

At the zenith of popular success, Lloyd dropped out, literally, withdrawing to the artist’s retreat of Big Sur in Northern California, and a decade and more passed in relative silence. Twenty years on from the dizzy heights of Forest Flower, he resurfaced more creatively attuned than ever, and his 1990 ECM debut prompted the label’s usually reticent Manfred Eicher to say, “This is the refined essence of what music should be.” That relationship has blossomed over ten recordings, often in the company of pianist Bobo Stenson or guitarist John Abercrombie, with a further release planned in Spring 2005 with the stellar group he brings to Dublin.

Throughout the many artistic and spiritual journeys that Lloyd has undertaken, perhaps it can be said that he has not strayed that far from his roots in Memphis. For all his music’s beauty and refinement, its sense of yearning and humanity, it is the sound of a 21st century soul man.

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