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Jazz saxophonist spreads his mystical cool

Wednesday, Dec 26 2001
Though Sonny Rollins dominates the accolades of the current jazz cognoscenti, fellow tenor saxophonist Charles Lloyd merits props as well. At 63, his lifelong commitment to the music is irrefutable. Coming of age in the Flower Power era, Lloyd stunned glassy-eyed hippies at the Fillmore Auditorium at a time when jazz was invisible to popular culture. But rather than applaud the saxophonist for spreading the gospel to new audiences, critics were -- and still are -- ambivalent about his significance. Lloyd doesn't seem to care much about historical placement; instead, he plays for himself.

Influenced by the self-explorative power of John Coltrane and Eastern spirituality, Lloyd developed a one-of-a-kind sound rich with mystical cool, smooth phrasing, and a nonstandardized sense of swing. Unlike innovators who tend to shout from the mountaintops, Lloyd reflects a Zen serenity in his music, playing with a laid-back wisdom that speaks of a man at peace with himself and his path.

This sagelike artistry draws first-rate players to his bands: Early efforts included Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette, both of whom fueled Miles Davis' infamous fusion abstractions, while Lloyd's latest CD, Hyperion With Higgins, features recently deceased legendary drummer Billy Higgins, rising-star pianist Brad Mehldau, and veteran guitarist John Abercrombie. At Yoshi's, Lloyd will team up with singular pianist Geri Allen and longtime partners Larry Grenadier (bass) and Billy Hart (drums). Whether or not the critics ever get hip to Lloyd's vision, he will continue to appeal to jazz fans with open ears and open hearts.

About The Author

Sam Prestianni


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