Charles Lloyd is a jazz musician who revels in spirituality and in sound. When he first came to public attention in 1960 as a member of the popular Chico Hamilton Quintet, like many saxophonists of the time he was heavily influenced by the work of John Coltrane. Over the next few years he weaned himself off all direct influences and developed his own voice on the tenor saxophone and flute. His style, while harmonically sophisticated, encompassed a rich but plaintive sound that seems an extension of the human voice, bound to a seemingly simple melodic sensibility. His playing was exuberant but with hints of transcendence and melancholy that appealed to hardcore jazz lovers as well as more causal listeners. In 1966 he released Forest Flower, from a performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival, and it became one of the best-selling jazz LPs ever and made Lloyd a star. As a result, his quartet, which featured Keith Jarrett on piano, was able to open for some of the leading rock acts of the day and tour all over the world, at fees rarely available to jazz musicians. But the creator of such albums as The Flowering and The Journey Within was not one to be swayed by such success. For a decade, he withdrew from performance to pursue spiritual quests on the California coast.
Lloyd came back leading a new quartet that included the teenage French pianist Michel Petrucciani. He has continued to collaborate with young pianists, including Bobo Stenson, Geri Allen, and most recently, Jason Moran. He also developed his far-ranging interests in other musical traditions, collaborating with, among others, Indian tabla drum player Zakir Hussain and Greek singer Maria Farantouri. On occasion he also expanded his repertoire of instruments, performing on alto saxophone, the tarogato (a Hungarian instrument that resembles a wooden soprano saxophone), alto and bass flutes, and the Tibetan oboe. But no matter how far he strays, Lloyd is wedded to the tenor sax; this is where his sound lies. Over the years it has been burnished and deepened, and has grown richer and more expressive. But if you go back and listen to his late-sixties albums, you will immediately recognize the same highly individual voice: full-bodied, but laced with a touch of introspection and sadness. The years trace a consistent musical development, but his stylistic core remains true to itself.
On April 14 Lloyd brings his New Quartet to Hill Auditorium. His sidemen, pianist Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Eric Harland–none of whom were born when Forest Flower was recorded–have been with him for some years now and can develop complex musical interactions and bend compositions in a manner that would be impossible in a less artistically integrated group. Moran, who follows in a long line of great Lloyd pianists, is particularly effective in this context, sharing Lloyd’s lyrical expressiveness.