Saxophonist Charles Lloyd Makes Big Comeback

charles lloydFor SFWEEKLY: Who doesn’t love a good comeback story? And jazz saxophonist Charles Lloyd‘s tale – full of music industry disillusionment and a Zen-seeking retreat to Big Sur for more than a decade – is as intriguing as any other.

In the 1960s, Lloyd was a rising star in the jazz world, first as a songwriting sideman for Chico Hamilton and Cannonball Adderley, and eventually a Downbeat Magazine “Jazz Artist of the Year” as frontman for his own quartet. His jazz group was the first to play the Fillmore in San Francisco. He recorded with the Beach Boys and The Doors, and played gigs with Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead. For many in the ’60s, his widely successful recording, “Forest Flower”, spoke to the dramatic social changes of that era.

Sporting a ‘fro, goatee, hip glasses, and a laid-back demeanor, Lloyd infused his music with a global, non-Western, free-jazz, cool sensibility. But like many artists before him who eventually craved isolation – Jack Kerouac, Langston Hughes – Lloyd retreated to Big Sur for much of the ’70s and ’80s and only appeared occasionally to play with other artists.

And now, Lloyd’s resurfaced in a major way: This week, Lloyd was awarded the NEA Jazz Masters honor, previously earned by legendary saxophonists Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter. The jazz label Blue Note Records recently released his first album for them in 30 years, Wild Man Dance, a live recording of a new long-form suite. Lloyd will perform the work during a four-night stand at SFJAZZ April 23-26. Not to be missed.

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