Last updated on September 6th, 2023 at 04:35 pm
In the music world, there are success stories, and then there are legends. Jazz saxophonist and flutist Charles Lloyd falls firmly into the latter category.
Lloyd’s decorated career, which dates to the mid-60s, has been nothing short of iconic. In that time, he collaborated with nearly all the greats, won countless awards, and recorded a catalog containing beautiful and compelling music. Long known for his versatility, impeccable tone, and a sound that bridges many musical worlds, Lloyd is a heralded and beloved figure in the jazz world and beyond.
While the depth of Lloyd’s catalog might seem intimidating to a newcomer, one doesn’t have to go far back to get a sense of what makes the music special. Now 85, he recorded some of the finest music of his career in the last decade. This includes three separate releases as part of three different trios in 2022 and multiple live albums with his various fantastic bands.
For fans of jazz, or music in general, there are plenty of familiar faces appearing on these releases, from Bill Frissell to Julian Lage to Lucinda Williams and Norah Jones. But it’s Lloyd’s playing, direction, and vision that holds them all together. On Thursday night, Lloyd and his phenomenal quartet treated audiences to two special intimate shows that captured the best of his sound and artistry.
That quartet joins Lloyd with some of the best musicians in the world; Reuben Rogers (bass), Kendrick Scott (drums), and Gerald Clayton (piano) are all brilliant musicians with storied careers of their own. Their chops were in top form throughout, and together, they were exceptionally cohesive. To watch a quartet work as well as they did was a sight to behold.
To illustrate how good Rogers, Scott, and Clayton were, Lloyd occasionally stepped back and let the other three play. Some of these moments ended up being high points in the show, with Clayton’s soloing particularly captivating, intricate, and emotionally moving.
Individually and collectively, the quartet made some of the most beautiful and varied music I’ve ever heard. At the center of all of it was Lloyd, playing remarkably on both saxophone and flute. Even at 85, his performances remain at a stratospheric level, both technically sound and deeply moving.
Spirituality is often invoked when discussing Lloyd’s music, and that felt apt as I watched this set. If there ever was a musician who seems to channel something otherworldly, it’s Charles Lloyd. And if there’s a deeper group playing right now, I don’t think I’ve seen it.