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Charles Lloyd

One of the most popular jazz musicians in the world during the late 1960s, tenor-saxophonist and flutist Charles Lloyd has continued to grow in depth, creativity and spirituality since those days. Born in 1938 in Memphis, Lloyd began on the saxophone when he was 9 and took music lessons from pianist Phineas Newborn. He gained early experience playing the blues with B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf and Bobby “Blue” Bland, also gigging with the up-and-comers on the Memphis jazz scene, including trumpeter Booker Little. After moving to Los Angeles in 1956, Lloyd earned a degree in music from USC and played locally with the Gerald Wilson Big Band. His first big break was joining the Chico Hamilton Quintet in 1960. Lloyd persuaded Hamilton to drop the cello in his chamber jazz group and have a more hard bop-oriented band with trombone and guitarist Gabor Szabo. Lloyd spent 1964-65 as a member of the Cannonball Adderley Sextet. He also began to record as a leader.

In 1966 he formed the Charles Lloyd Quartet, a group featuring pianist Keith Jarrett, Cecil McBee (succeeded by Ron McClure) on bass and drummer Jack DeJohnette. They were the hit of the 1966 Monterey Jazz Festival, Lloyd’s Forest Flower became famous and the band often appeared opposite rock groups, including bookings at the Fillmore West. Their music alternated between soulful and free, funky and inspired by John Coltrane. In 1968 the group broke up and Lloyd became semi-retired for the next dozen years, although he did emerge to play with the Beach Boys on a few occasions in the 1970s. In the early 1980s pianist Michel Petrucciani searched for him, found Lloyd and persuaded him to play again. After drifting back into retirement in the mid-1980s, in 1989 Lloyd returned and since then has done some of his finest work. Lloyd’s post-1989 bands have included such notables as pianists Bobo Stenson, Brad Mehldau, Geri Allen and Jason Moran, guitarist John Abercrombie, bassists Larry Grenadier and Reuben Rogers and drummers Billy Higgins, Billy Hart and Eric Harland.