The Grammy Award-winning tenor/soprano saxophonist, bandleader, composer and NEA Jazz Master Charles Lloyd – who turned 80 on March 15 – will be the Artist-in-Residence at the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival® presented by Natixis Investment Managers, performing three concerts at Fort Adams State Park in celebration of his birthday.
Lloyd, who last played at the festival in 2016, and for six decades has reigned supreme as one of the most original and popular jazz artists, will perform his first set on August 3 with his group, Sangam, his Indian-influenced trio consisting of tabla master Zakir Hussain and Houston drummer Eric Harland, who has been with Lloyd for over a decade. On August 4, Harland joins Lloyd with his New Quartet featuring another Houstonian, pianist and MacArthur Fellow, Jason Moran, and bassist Reuben Rogers. On August 5Charles Lloyd & Friends, an all-star ensemble featuring folk/pop singer Lucinda Williams, guitarists Marvin Sewell and Stuart Mathis, plus Moran, Rogers and Harland, take the stage. Don’t miss Lloyd and these friends on his forthcoming CD, Vanished Garden, with his group, The Marvels, a guitar-centric ensemble that is a finely textured blend of jazz, country, blues, and Americana.
Lloyd’s ability to extend and weave his warm, blues-born, post-bop saxophone and flute lines in many musical idioms have been honed by six decades of extraordinary and evocative music making. His sound on tenor sax, flute and the tárogató, a Hungarian clarinet – is an elegant and impassioned cry that encompasses a wide variety of music in a way that no one else does. He’s led generations of bands, including his best-known quartet consisting of pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Cecil McBee, and drummer Jack DeJohnette. Their 1966 recording, Forest Flower: Live at Monterey, sold a million copies, and in doing so, Lloyd crossed over into the flower power/rock audience, amazingly, without diluting or changing the content of his jazz, or falling victim to jazz-fusion clichés.
George Wein, Newport Jazz Festival founder and Chairman of Newport Festivals Foundation, met Charles Lloyd 20 years ago in a bar after Lloyd’s performance at the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl. “We spoke for over two hours. We talked about Pres, Hawk and the great tenor saxophonists that preceded him; he spoke lovingly of Billy Higgins, a drummer who meant so much to his life,” Wein wrote in his blog, Notes from the Wein Machine.
“We had a chance to talk and get to know each other not as producer to musician or vice-versa, but as two human beings related to one another by mutual respect and admiration … His wife, Dorothy, called me this past fall to let me know that Charles would be 80 years old in March 2018 and would like to celebrate with something special at the Newport Jazz Festival. The idea came up to have Charles as Artist-in-Residence. We were excited about the project as we haven’t had a musician in residence for many years and the thought of making this personal milestone for Charles the centerpiece of this year’s festival was impossible to resist … Charles’ music is always that of a group, not of a rhythm section supporting his virtuosity as a saxophonist. There is only one Charles Lloyd and I am glad he will be with us this year,” said Wein.
Lloyd’s search for musical truth began when he was born in Memphis, Tennessee into a family descended from Africans, Irish and Native Americans. He started playing the alto saxophone around the age of nine. He grew up in a home that served as a boarding house for African-American bandleaders, including Duke Ellington and Count Basie. He worshipped Billie Holiday, sleeping with his ear to the record player, serenaded by the ancestral ache of her sound. He played R&B and blues gigs with masters like B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland, and Howlin’ Wolf, worked with trumpeter Booker Little and studied with the piano wunderkind, Phineas Newborn. He moved to California in 1956, studied music at University of Southern California, changed from alto to tenor saxophone, and befriended the iconoclastic avant-garde saxophonist/composer Ornette Coleman. He also worked with bandleader Gerald Wilson, drummer Chico Hamilton, and saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. One of Lloyd’s early combos as a leader, featured the guitarist Gabor Szabo, his bandmate in Hamilton’s group, bassist Ron Carter – who was playing with Miles Davis at that time – and drummer Pete La Roca Sims.
After the runaway success of Forest Flower, Lloyd played rock venues and enjoyed a large following among the youth. He released a number of critically-acclaimed LPs on Atlantic records during this period, including Dream WeaverThe Flowering,Love-In and Charles Lloyd in Europe. He recorded with the Beach Boys and Canned Heat, and he penned an opera, Moon Man. Despite his fame and wealth, Lloyd grew tired of the record industry and what he called “the tragic magic of drugs,” so he disbanded his group in 1969, retired from playing and moved from New York to Malibu, then later to Big Sur to heal, meditate and study religion and philosophy.
During his retirement, Lloyd performed a series of local poetry readings with actor Burgess Meredith, but it was the inspiration of French pianist Michel Petrucciani that motivated Lloyd to come back to the scene in 1981 and release the LPs Montreux 82 and A Night In CopenhagenFive years later, Lloyd suffered a near-death experience, which further deepened his East Indian spirituality and musical purpose, and set the stage for his future forays into what would be known as world music. “I came back with so much more strength, light, wisdom,” Lloyd recently told The Boston Globe. “My choices of notes and colors became more profound.”
In the 80s, 90s and well after the change of the century, Lloyd’s recording output was steady and fruitful on the ECM, Atlantic and Blue Note labels, from A Fish out of WaterAcoustic Masters 1, and The Water is Wide, to Hyperion with HigginsMirror, and Wild Man Dance and I Long to See You, the first recording with The Marvels. In 2013, Lloyd’s wife, artist Dorothy Darr, co-produced the documentary film, Arrows into Infinity, which featured commentary from pianist Herbie Hancock, critic Stanley Crouch and drummers Robbie Robertson of The Band, and John Densmore of The Doors. Lloyd then released The Athens Concert, an ingenious fusion of jazz and Greek music with singer Maria Farantouri, recorded in the Temple of Dendur. Lloyd was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2015, and received an Honorary Degree from the Berklee School of Music that same year. His effectiveness as an educator is evidenced by the many future jazz piano greats that played with him including Moran, Petrucciani, Jarrett, Bobo Stenson, Geri Allen, Gerald Clayton and Brad Mehldau.
When Charles Lloyd takes to the Newport stage August 3 – 5, what you will hear is an artist at the apex of his artistry, who is both down home, and at home, wherever there is music.
The 2018 Newport Jazz Festival presented by Natixis Investment Managers takes place August 3 – 5 at Fort Adams State Park and the International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino. In addition to Charles Lloyd’s 80th Birthday Celebration with three different bands, artists include Pat Metheny with Antonio Sanchez, Linda May Han Oh, & Gwilym Simcock; Living Colour; Andra Day; George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic; Alicia Olatuja; Jon Batiste; Michel Camilo; Grace Kelly; Laurie Anderson & Christian McBride Improvisations with special guest Rubin Kodheli; and Roy Hargrove. More artist announcements are coming soon.
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Newport Festivals Foundation fosters the legacy and expands the impact of its Festivals through educational initiatives that celebrate innovation while preserving the deep traditions inherent in Jazz and Folk music. The Foundation’s goal is to offer opportunity, inspire through exposure and facilitate the collection of resources needed for musicians to celebrate and innovate. The focus on creating unique experiences to spark engagement is accomplished through a variety of initiatives, including instrument donations and performances at schools throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. For more information, please