CHARLES LLOYD SIGNS TO BLUE NOTE; RELEASES "WILD MAN DANCE" & RECEIVES NEA JAZZ MASTER AWARD IN APRIL
January 27 2015
More than 50 years into an already legendary career, 2015 is shaping up to be a momentous year for Charles Lloyd. As reported today in The New York Times, the esteemed saxophonist and composer has signed with Blue Note Records and will release his first album for the iconic label in 30 years with the April 14 arrival of Wild Man Dance, a magnificent live recording of a remarkable long-form suite commissioned by the Jazztopad Festival in Wroclaw, Poland. Lloyd will present the North American premiere of the “Wild Man Dance Suite” on April 18 at the Metropolitan Museum Temple of Dendur in New York City followed by two performances of the work during a four-night stand at SFJAZZ (April 23-26) in San Francisco. Lloyd will also perform with his Quartet at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on May 2.
On April 20, Lloyd will reach another career landmark when he is awarded the NEA Jazz Masters honor celebrating his remarkable career as well as recognizing his creative brilliance in the pantheon of such other living and vital jazz legends as Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter. An awards ceremony and concert honoring the recipients will take place at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.
For the past half-century Lloyd has loomed large over the music world with both his presence and his occasional absence. A musical mystic, Lloyd has apprenticed with jazz and blues legends from Phineas Newborn to Cannonball Adderley to Howlin’ Wolf, helped launch the careers of jazz luminaries like Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette, co-headlined rock events with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, collaborated with fellow artistic explorers from Ken Kesey to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, pioneered the world music movement by teaming up with the Hungarian guitarist Gabor Szabo and Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain, and became one of the first million-selling jazz artists with the global success of his 1966 album Forest Flower.
Wild Man Dance marks Lloyd’s first Blue Note release since 1985’s A Night in Copenhagen, a live quartet set from the 1983 Copenhagen Jazz Festival, featuring aspiring pianist Michel Petrucciani who had urged Lloyd to come out of retirement from his Big Sur home. “I came down from my spiritual retreat in 1981 to help Michel get a foothold on the world stage, as the elders had done for me,” Lloyd says. “When things started to take off for him I returned to my solitude in Big Sur.”
“It wasn’t until a near death experience in 1986 that I fully rededicated myself to this beautiful tradition from which I come,” Lloyd explains. In 1989, Lloyd began his inspired 16-album relationship with ECM Records. “When Don Was became head of Blue Note [in 2011], he came up to see us and invited me to record for the label.” Lloyd ultimately accepted the invitation, with a mission in mind: “I want to stretch my wings wider and find new thermals to soar on. It is all a continuation of my search and service in sound.”
“Charles Lloyd has been inspiring, comforting, mesmerizing and stirring-up music fans for 50 years,” says Blue Note President Don Was. “Now in his mid-70's, we find him at the peak of his artistic powers – still blazing new trails and pushing the threshold of modern music. It is a very great honor for all of us at Blue Note Records to be associated with such a Creative Titan.”
The six-movement Wild Man Dance Suite was recorded in its premiere performance at the Jazztopad Festival and features pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Joe Sanders, and drummer Gerald Cleaver, as well as Greek lyra virtuoso Sokratis Sinopoulos and Hungarian cimbalom maestro Miklós Lukács, who color and texture and rhythmically charge the music. Lloyd’s compositions are at turns elegant, graceful, turbulent, dynamic, meditative, pacific and emotive. The music evokes a sense of transcendence and mysterious journey from the opening “Flying Over the Odra Valley” that spotlights Lukács's cosmic hammered delivery as well as the leader’s tenor saxophone brio, to the lyricism and dynamics of the epic “Wild Man Dance” finale where all the band members gracefully and gleefully converse.
“I come from a tradition of wild yogis,” says the 76-year-old Lloyd, who sagely explains the undergirding of Wild Man Dance. “I’m a blues man on a spiritual journey. The blues come out of a quest for freedom. My spiritual path is the search for the liberation of the soul.”
The jazz master still has many miles to traverse in his “call of the wild.” In the midst of celebrating his astounding new recording, Wild Man Dance, Lloyd continues to look to the horizon. “I am still searching to find the sound,” he says. “It is my path. I call myself a ‘sound seeker’…the deeper I dive into the ocean of sound, I find there is still deeper and further to go.”