Blowing along for the ride

72-year-old saxophonist/flutist Charles Lloyd has had a long and illustrious career and has mixed it up with some of the greats of the blues and jazz pantheon

Clive Lloyd quartet 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
Clive Lloyd quartet 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
There is something about Charles Lloyd that exudes a larger-than-life feeling. At 72 years old, the saxophonist is one of the most durable jazz artists around, and his recorded output runs at a steady album every 18 months or so. His performances are often a leader tour de force. His last concert in Israel, at the 2004 Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat, had the audiences on their feet as Lloyd alternated between tenor saxophone, flute and all manner of percussion instruments – enjoying a jig or two in the process.
Lloyd’s upcoming concert here, Saturday at 9:30 p.m. at the ICC in Jerusalem as part of the Israel Festival, sees him team up with long-time colleague drummer-percussionist Eric Harland, pianist Jason Moran and bassist Reuben Rogers.
Besides his trademark airy saxophone arpeggios, Lloyd adopts a sort ofgo-with-the-flow ethos. Thus, when asked what he and the quartet planto play here, the response was typically enigmatic. “It is often amystery until the first note comes out of my horn,” says Lloyd. “Ioften think about it in advance, and then as I am walking onto thestage and feel the vibration of the audience, I could end up playingsomething entirely different. The exchange of energy that takes placebetween the musicians and the audience is a very important factor inany concert. And each time I have performed in Israel – I think it isonly twice – I have had the most amazing and sensitive audiences.”
Lloyd has been through quite a few lineups over the past 45 or soyears. In the 1960s he shared the bandstand with now stellar pianistKeith Jarrett, with whom he recorded the smash hit albumForest Flower in 1966, and there were moresuccessful synergies over the next couple of decades. Lloyd took a timeout from jazz during the 1980s but came back with a vengeance andreeled off a string of acclaimed albums with the ECM label.
He and Harland have worked together for some years, both in the currentquartet and the intriguing Sangam trio, together with iconic Indiantabla player Zakir Hussain. Lloyd says he’s delighted with both bands.“This is my best quartet. We are family on and off the stage, so thereis always a feeling of support and simpatico – but musically for me, itelevates and expands with each performance.”
He attributes his confluence with Harland to something akin to divineintervention. “I met Eric shortly after Master [longtime Lloyd cohortdrummer Billy] Higgins passed away in 2001. I had a date at the BlueNote in New York City, and Eric was playing with the midnight jam band.I knew that Higgins had  sent him. Higgins had said he ‘would always bewith me,’ so I recognized Eric immediately.”
Lloyd is also a firm believer in proffering music to the public withoutpreconceptions and just allowing the listener to get on with it. “Weshould not underestimate the hearts and minds of the individual,” hedeclares. “I think people are exposed to a deep experience, and ourmusic is an experience that transcends language barriers. Racial andreligious differences do not exist in the music. It is a very high formof expression that can touch the heart directly.”
When it comes to cultural divides Lloyd is, perhaps, better qualifiedthan most to advocate openness and highlight the bonding values amongpeople from different backgrounds. “My ancestors were African, Irish,Native American (Choctaw) and Mongolian. I am not so different frommany who were born in the South of the United States, perhaps with theexception of the Mongolian part.
Different or no, expect to be taken on a trip at Lloyd’s show on Saturday night.