Charles Lloyd Offers A Respite From Life’s Countless Dilemmas


Charles Lloyd and the Marvels perform April 28, 2018, at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana.

(Photo: Adam McCullough)

If there’s a spiritual force in jazz that fans and musicians can look to for kōan-like erudition, it’s Charles Lloyd.

Despite the multi-reedist’s relative remove from the spotlight, even during his most prolific periods, Lloyd—who’s been resigned to sheltering-in-place for more than a month—decided to post a few videos to YouTube recently. In the first, he’s donning a wide-brimmed hat and brown poncho while playing, as the video cuts from Lloyd to a view of the coast along Santa Barbara, California. A more explicitly spiritual rumination—replete with the sounds of water and chirping birds accompanying Lloyd as he plays the Hungarian tárogató—was posted April 12.

“In my lifetime I have faced many dilemmas: racism, poverty, flood, fire, 9/11 ... . [E]ach of these had a direct impact on my life and the lives of many others—but not everyone,” Lloyd wrote in an email to DownBeat.There are no lines of demarcation for the coronavirus—it is universally threatening all of us. We are all coping with the unseen, the isolation and the economic fallout this has created. I have said many times, music has always been my inspiration and consolation. As I agonized over this global condition, I felt compelled to offer some sounds in hopes of lifting up someone’s spirit. Master Billy Higgins always said, ‘We are in service.’ These offerings are part of my service. All life is one.”

Lloyd, who remains one of the most creatively engaged performers of his generation, recently issued 8: Kindred Spirits (Live From The Lobero), a recording from March 15, 2018, that marked the saxophonist’s 80th birthday. That release and the recent videos seem to indicate that Lloyd’s still drawing from a creative well that many of us only can aspire to. DB

Updated April 27.

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