Charles Lloyd

“Charles Lloyd’s approach to performance  is quite different. The more Lloyd goes inside himself the more he draws his audience  in. With Jason Moran on piano, Eric Harland on drums, and Reuben Rogers on bass, Lloyd once again has a group able to follow his excursions into the music and into the mystic. Lloyd is one of the greats, rather like Joan Miro in modern art, he has no peer save  himself.  Music of total transport and delight.”  Jazzwise

“Follow the career of Charles Lloyd, and you  see a map of great jazz across half a century. “Mr. Lloyd has come up with a strange and beautiful  distillation of the American experience,  part  abandoned  and wild, part immensely controlled  and  sophisticated.”  The New York Times

“He’s expansive in his musical discourse yet without a wasted note.” Wall Street Journal

Jazz improvisation as complex and far-reaching as the Lloyd Quartet had to offer can be a daunting listening experience. … The listener is taken on a journey through gravity-less improvisational space. To the credit of Lloyd and his players, that journey was by one musical enlightenment after another.”        
Los Angeles Times

Recipient of the 2013 Miles Davis Award from the Montreal International Jazz Festival, saxophonist Charles Lloyd, is a forward-thinking musician’s musician whose supreme improvisational talents and interest in cross-pollinating jazz with rock as well as non-Western styles of music during the ’60s and ’70s established him as one of the key figures in the development of fusion and world music. Lloyd emerged in the 1960s and became a crossover star, leading a quartet that introduced Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, and Cecil McBee to the world.

At the height of his near rock star fame he retreated to the seclusion of Big Sur and lived the contemplative life of a hermit for over a decade. He returned briefly in the early 1980s to launch the career of French pianist, Michel Petrucciani, then retreated for nearly another decade. Lloyd’s 1990 recording “Fish Out of Water” on ECM Records marked his return to performing and maintaining an active touring and recording schedule.

Charles Lloyd was born in Memphis, Tennessee March 15, 1938. From an early age, he was immersed in that city’s rich musical life and was exposed to jazz. He began playing the saxophone at the age of 9.  Pianist  Phineas Newborn  became his mentor, and took him to Irvin Reason for lessons.  His closest  friend in highschool  was trumpeter, Booker Little. Lloyd worked in Phineas Sr’s band, and became a sideman in the Blues bands of B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf,  Johnnie Ace, Bobbie “Blue” Bland, and others.

In 1956 Lloyd moved to Los Angeles and earned Master’s degree from the University of Southern  California.. During this period Lloyd played in Gerald Wilson’s big band, he also had  his own group that included Billy Higgins, Don Cherry, Bobby Hutcherson, and Terry Trotter. Lloyd joined Chico Hamilton in 1960, though  the  band was known  for  playing “chamber jazz” at  the beginning  of Lloyd’s tenure. His influence as a composer  and a player quickly pushed it in a more progressive post-bop direction especially after Hamilton asked him to be the groups “music director.”  Lloyd’s key musical partner in the band was Hungarian guitarist, Gabor Szabo. In 1964 Lloyd left Hamilton’s group to join alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderly. During this period he recorded two albums as a leader for Columbia Records, Discovery and Of Course, Of Course; his sidemen were other young musicians including  Herbie Hancock,  Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. Through 1965-1969 Lloyd led a quartet  with  pianist, Keith Jarrett, bassist, Cecil McBee (later, Ron McClure), and drummer , Jack DeJohnette. The quartet’s music was an interesting  fusion of straight-ahead post-bop, Free jazz and world music. The group’s music quickly caught the attention of both jazz fans and critics. Somewhat surprisingly, they also achieved a fair amount of crossover success with young rock fans and became the first jazz group to play in The Fillmore. The album  Forest Flower, Live at Monterey, became a big commercial hit, largely on the strength of the title track. Other note worthy albums include Dream Weaver, Soviet Union, and In Europe, all  on Atlantic.

In 1970, after Lloyd had disbanded the quartet, he moved back to California and entered a state of semi-retirement.  He practically disappeared  from the jazz scene, but can be heard  on recordings with the Doors, Canned Heat, and the Beach Boys. During the 1970s Lloyd played extensively with The Beach Boys both on their studio recordings and  as a member of their  touring  band.

Upon being approached by pianist, Michel Petrucciani in 1981, he resumed playing actively for two years and then  retreated again.  Upon his recovery from a near death experience in 1986, Lloyd decided to rededicate himself to music. He started performing occasionally in 1987 & 88. In 1989, Lloyd reestablished an active touring schedule and began  recording  for ECM Records. The first ECM release was Fish Out of Water  with Bobo Stenson, Palle Danielsson, and Jon  Christensen.   The ECM recordings showcased his sensitivity as a ballad player and composer. Between 1993 and 1997 the quartet included Bobo Stenson, Anders Jormin, and Billy Hart. In 1998 the Billy Higgins replaced Hart, and Lloyd alternated between Stenson and John Abercrombie.  Noteworthy albums include Canto, Voice In the Night, The Water Is Wide (featuring Brad Mehldau, John Abercrombie, Larry Grenadier and Billy Higgins). Geri Allen replaced  Stenson , touring and recording with Lloyd between  2001 and 2006 ( Lift Every Voice and Jumping the Creek ). Drummer, Eric Harland  joined Lloyd’s quartet in 2002, replacing Billy Higgins, and is part of Lloyd’s Sangam Trio, with tabla master, Zakir Hussain in 2004. They continue to perform and record  together.

Lloyd maintains an active recording and tour schedule.  His New Quartet with Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Roger, bass and Eric  Harland, drums is well matched with Lloyd’s creative and adventurous spirit. They have three recordings on ECM, Rabo de Nube (2008 ) and Mirror ( 2010 ) and the Athens Concert ( 2011) a collaborations with Greec’es national reasure, singer Maria Farantouri. Earlier this year, Lloyd released a duo recording with Jason Moran, Hagar’s Song on ECM. He also continues to tour with his Sangam Trio, as well as special projects with Bill Frisell and  Maria Farantouri.

Gerald Clayton

Over the course of eight years, with three albums as a leader, several studio projects as a sideman, and countless worldwide performances, pianist and composer Gerald Clayton has established himself as a leading figure in the up-and-coming generation of jazz artists who are fluent in the range of styles that make up today’s jazz lexicon. Hailed by The New York Times for his “huge, authoritative presence,” Clayton is well on his way toward etching his own enduring mark in the long and rich tradition of jazz. Never has this been more apparent than in Life Forum, his latest recording on Concord Jazz and his most ambitious project to date.

Born in the Netherlands in 1984 and raised in Southern California, Clayton took his first piano lessons before age seven with the full support and encouragement of his father, the acclaimed jazz bassist, composer and bandleader, John Clayton. Music was a central part of his life from as long as he can remember and it became a lifetime commitment very early on: “I was in the third grade, and there was a talent show where I played a boogie-woogie piece that my dad had written for me,” he recalls. “It was the first time that I played for an audience where I felt that people were really moved by something that I had just played. I remember thinking, ‘Yep, this is what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.’” Clayton attended the L.A. County High School for the Arts and then enrolled at the USC Thornton School of Music. In the midst of his third year at USC, he temporarily relocated to New York to study at the Manhattan School of Music. “I knew I was eventually going to move to New York,” he says, “so I thought it would be a good idea to experience the city for a year as a student.” After returning to L.A. for a year and a half to finish his degree,  he moved back to New York permanently.

In 2006, Gerald received the second place prize in the prestigious Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz Piano Competition.  Around that time, he was introduced to trumpeter Roy Hargrove when they were both featured artists at a performance of the Henry Mancini Orchestra. “We were backstage during one of the rehearsals, and we started playing some duets,” recalls Clayton. “After that I would see him from time to time in New York, and he would say, ‘Great that you’re in New York now. I’ll call you.’ That was how things started.” The association resulted in three years of extensive touring with Hargrove between 2006 and 2009, and appearances on Hargrove’s recordings, Earfood (2008) and Emergence (2009). Gerald also appeared on recordings by several other artists, such as Diana Krall, Ambrose Akinmusire, Kendrick Scott, Melissa Morgan, Terell Stafford & Dick Oatts, and more recently Michael Rodriguez, Dayna Stephens, Terri Lyne Carrington, and the Clayton Brothers Quintet, led by his father and his uncle, saxophonist Jeff Clayton. Gerald continues to perform regularly with the Clayton Brothers.

In 2009, he released Two Shade, his debut album as a leader, with bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown. Sanders and Brown have remained with him for his two subsequent records. It was from this recording that Gerald received a 2010 Grammy nomination in the category of ‘Best Improvised Jazz Solo’ for his rendition of Cole Porter’s “All of You.” In 2011, Gerald received a second Grammy nomination, this time for ‘Best Jazz Instrumental Composition’, for his piece “Battle Circle” featured on the Clayton Brothers recording, The New Song and Dance. The same year, Clayton released his second album, Bond: The Paris Sessions. While the expectations may have been high in the aftermath of the acclaimed debut album, Clayton recalls the album coming together organically and with a minimum of stress. “You hear people talk about the curse of the sophomore album, but recording that album – and the whole process leading up to it – was very natural for us as a trio. We’d been touring a great deal at the time and spending a lot of time together, so going into the studio and catching that vibe was completely natural.” Bond received a Grammy nomination, Gerald’s third, in 2012 for ‘Best Jazz Instrumental Album’.

Life Forum, set for release in April 2013, “might be the most ambitious album yet,” states Clayton. “Conceptualizing the music for a group of eight musicians was a new experience for me, and it required more preparation than I was accustomed to. With the addition of lyrics to three of the tunes, as well as some other post-production work, this project has been a departure from my previous two. I’m doing more writing now than I’ve ever done before, and working with Ben Wendel, who produced the record, was very helpful. I really admire his playing and his writing. He and I got together prior to the sessions to talk about the music and map out what I needed to do to get it recorded. In that sense, it was more demanding than the previous records.”

“What comes after Life Forum is anyone’s guess,” says Clayton, who does not want to be defined by any one musical tradition: “I prefer to ignore the boxes, the genre distinctions,” he says. ”I focus on creating honest musical expressions and collaborating with people whose ideas resonate with my own.”