Charles Lloyd & The Marvels with special guest Lucinda Williams – Featuring Bill Frisell, Stuart Mathis, Reuben Rogers, Eric Harland
Charles Lloyd is one of jazz’s greatest polymaths. Over a lifetime’s worth of musical exploration, the saxophonist has led bands through bop, soul jazz, and avant-garde sounds, incorporating psychedelic rock and Eastern modalities and shifting the perception of what constitutes American music along the way. With his latest combo the Marvels – featuring guitarists Bill Frisell and Stuart Mathis, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Eric Harland – Lloyd creates spectral invocations of hymns, protest folk, ghostly surf, and cosmic Americana. For this special performance, the Marvels are joined by Southern singer/songwriter and vocalist Lucinda Williams, whose songs tie rock to country, blues to folk.
Lloyd was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 15, 1938. The sounds of the city blurred all around him: blues, jazz, gospel. He picked up saxophone at only nine, and went on to learn from saxophonist Irvin Reason and pianist Phineas Newborn. In his teens, he immersed himself in the local music scene, playing with George Coleman’s band and acting as a sideman for B.B. King, Johnny Ace, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and Howlin’ Wolf. But even as young man, Lloyd’s taste was wide-ranging. He left Memphis for the West Coast in 1956, heading to Los Angeles to earn a classical music degree at USC. He studied during the day, but at night, he navigated the city’s vibrant jazz scene, playing with a wide cast of legendary players: Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Bobby Hutcherson, and many more. He played with Gerald Wilson’s big band, and then served as Chico Hamilton’s musical director before joining up with the Cannonball Adderley Sextet.
In the mid-sixties, Lloyd formed his own quartet with pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Cecil McBee, and drummer Jack DeJohnette. The band’s 1966 album Forest Flower: Live at Monterey broke through to pop audiences, selling a million copies, garnering heavy FM airplay, and endearing the band to rock and pop fans. While many jazz traditionalists viewed rock music with a wary eye, Lloyd’s quartet shared stages at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium with Janis Joplin, Cream, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, and the Jefferson Airplane.
Moving to Big Sur at the start of a new decade, Lloyd performed with the Beach Boys and Celebration, a group comprised of members of the Beach Boys’ touring band and core Beach Boys Mike Love and Al Jardine, through much of the ’70s. He rededicated himself to jazz music in the late ’80s, recording for Manfred Eicher’s ECM label. Reflecting on Lloyd’s Fish Out of Water LP, Eicher noted its elemental quality: “I really believe this is the refined essence of what music should be. All the meat is gone, only the bones remain."
In 2013, Lloyd returned with Wild Man Dance Suite on Blue Note, featuring a quartet of sax, piano, bass, and drums – with Hungarian cimbalom and Greek lyra accents – and followed that with his debut with the Marvels, I Long To See You.
Joining Lloyd and the Marvels for this performance is Lucinda Williams. From her earliest recordings on the storied Folkways label to her breakout 1988 self-titled album and 1998 masterpiece Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Williams has offered beautiful and raw Southern poetry. Equally indebted to the Southern Gothic writing of Flannery O’Connor and the heartbroken country of Hank Williams (no relation), Williams makes for a formidable addition to Lloyd and his Marvels, who are set to create a unique musical experience, drawing on decades of improvisation and understanding of diverse sonic traditions. "Mr. Lloyd has come up with a strange and beautiful distillation of the American experience,” writes Peter Watrous of The New York Times, “Part abandoned and wild, part immensely controlled and sophisticated."