Sunday, April 15, 2012


Saxophonist Charles Lloyd

have a confession. Saturday night at the Michigan Theater was my first Charles Lloyd experience. As a jazz reporter and a blogger I should know your work. Jazz has a vast history, and I have a lot of catching up to do. I'm not completely in the dark about you, Mr. Lloyd.

In 2004, I interviewed your former band-mate piano player Tad Weed. Do you remember him? He toured with you for a number of years. Weed said you’re a tough bandleader at times, and sometimes you'd chastise him in the middle of his solos. “You ain’t playing shit, man,” were your exact words. 

Mr. Lloyd I wanted to know more about you, so I pulled up a few articles written about you on the Internet.  I read you grew up in Memphis, and started playing the sax at age nine. You’re crazy about Bird, Dizzy,  and Monk, and you slept with a portable radio under your pillow. 

Back then, hotels in Memphis wouldn’t rent to blacks. When Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Dinah Washington and other famous Black entertainers hit town, they stay at your mom’s place. That gave you a chance to meet those entertainers, and to discuss music with them. 

As an established musician, you played with an array of bands, the Beach Boys, the Doors, and Chico Hamilton. The list goes on and on.  In 1960, you formed the Charles Lloyd Quartet. Keith Jarrett, Cecil McBee and Jack DeJohnette were members. The quartet made a string of now classic recording. Musically, your biggest regret was turning down a chance to play with Thelonious Monk.  

 I bought “Dream Weaver," "Forest Flower," and “Love In”. En route to the Michigan Theater, I listened to those albums. Your new band—Jason Moran, Ruben Rogers, and Eric Harland—sound a lot like your first quartet. All night long, Harland was on the drums like an attack dog, and Rogers kept an eye on the time and the band like a shop foreman.

Mr. Lloyd, your show had many highlights. When you, Rogers, and Harland left the stage so Moran could solo was truly memorable. Moran rolled the blues, ragtime, swing, and free jazz into a three minute burst of creativity. I've never witnessed anything like it. 

Another memorable moments occurred when the band played  “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. You broke the melody into bite size  pieces and fed them to Moran, Rogers, Harland.

The showstopper was the ballad you played. It was the prettiest ballad I’ve heard a free-jazz sax player blow. If my wife had come to the show with me, we would’ve been making out on that number. 

Mr. Lloyd, you’re are a jazz royalty. You treated Moran, Rogers, and Harland as though it was an honor to play with them.  At 74-years-old, your blowing is still robust. I was surprised that you played a ballad for the encore. The audience was worked up the entire show. I guess your plan was to calm down the them before they headed home.  

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