Saxophonist Charles Lloyd is a mystic, a nature lover and a sound-seeker. He seems to inhabit an enchanted space, and considers himself in service to the music, which he must share. “It changes the molecules,” he explains. “People seem to brighten up, and I brighten up, and we all get blessed.” He also has an uncanny ability to look backward and forward at the same time, which makes for some interesting conversations.
His latest CD “Wild Man Dance” resulted from a commission by a Polish jazz festival, asking for a large work utilizing a symphony orchestra and choruses, and whatever he wanted to do. Charles added a Hungarian cimbalom, a large dulcimer. “I’m a big fan of Hungarian music, Bela Bartok and all of that. (Guitarist) Gabor Szabo used to play with me, he’s from over there. I have this deep connection with that music,” he says. “The Wild Man Dance, that name comes from all those great wild men that I played with throughout my life. The Wild Men are the guys who go inside and face the mirror of their inadequacies, face the Creator and ask for the divine elixirs.”
“I started out in Memphis, my hero was Phineas Newborn, my first mentor; Booker Little was my best friend. I went to school with Harold Mabern and Frank Strozier…we were just dreamers and we were trying to get up into the heavens with the music.
“I also played these blues gigs with Howlin’ Wolf and Johnny Ace, Bobby Blue Bland, Junior Parker, BB King, Roscoe Gordon. That early information from Memphis was very powerful because those guys were great masters. Also coming through town were Duke Ellington and Count Basie and Lionel Hampton.” Charles’ mother had a big house and the bandleaders would stay there. “Duke did tell my mother, don’t let that boy be a musician, let him be a doctor, lawyer or Indian chief, this life is too hard, but by that time I was already bit by the cobra, and there was not much choice. They couldn’t talk me out of it. I’ve traveled around the globe and played with all the great musicians. I’ve been really blessed.”
For the Earshot Jazz Festival, he’ll be appearing with his latest crop of young musicians: Gerald Clayton at the piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums.
“I’ve been coming to your beautiful area for a long time, I have lots of dear friends there, I’ve played the festival several times. I’ve been coming to Seattle since the 1960s…before you were born.”
I protest, “Not quite before I was born, but before I knew you,” which starts him on the “Younger Than Springtime” theme that he’s been using in conversations lately. “I have these young musicians who want to serve with me now, and I remember the time when I was the youngest musician, and all the elders were bringing me along.”
“I’m really enamored with this group, we just played two concerts in Memphis, and then I’ve been in the studio, mastering and mixing various things of mine. So I’m always busy, and I love that I can still find elevation in the music and I still love it and it makes me to be almost like you, younger than springtime. I just love to go on this journey of playing music.”
For his next project, Charles is working on recordings from a recent tour with guitarist Bill Frisell, which he expects to be released in January.
Journey with the Charles Lloyd Quartet this Saturday October 17 at 8pm in Seattle’s Town Hall, it’s part of the Earshot Jazz Festival.