by Josef Woodard
A STORY IN CIRCLES: Lately, the Lobero Theatre marquee has hosted the familiar, lyrically brooding mug of Charles Lloyd, as it has many times before. For decades, Santa Barbara has been home to Lloyd, the internationally known tenor saxist whose stock has risen and fallen in critical and commercial circles, sometimes radically. He travels the world with his bands, usually accompanied by one of the finer pianists on the scene at a given moment (i.e. Keith Jarrett, Michel Pettrucciani, Bobo Stenson, Brad Mehldau, and currently, Geri Allen).
This time around, though, Lloyd’s Friday night homecoming Lobero gig carries special meaning as one of the more “Lobero-centric” concerts in memory. For one thing, this will be the first time he’ll have played here since recording his current CD, Sangam, in this hall in 2004. It’s actually not the first time a jazz artist has recorded in the Lobero — the late pianist Horace Tapscott was recorded here by Thom Albach for the Nimbus label. But Lloyd’s album, a free-spirited and East-meets-West conglomeration with drummers Zakir Hussain and Eric Harland (also in his quartet), is the first Lobero-based live album for a major label, ECM.
On a more historical note, the Lobero was also the site, 25 years ago, of Lloyd’s emergence from an infamous hermitage. Lloyd’s strange story is often told, especially in this town, but the nutshell version of Lloyd’s whirlwind career involved reaching unprecedented heights of acclaim in the late ’60s, in terms of sales and appeal outside of the jazz realm (he opened for rock acts at the Fillmore West and Earl Warren Showgrounds, for instance). Lloyd’s million-selling Forest Flower was recorded live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 40 years ago, a milestone that his Monterey appearance this Saturday commemorates.
By 1970, Lloyd had had enough of the bright lights, retreating to hideaways in Big Sur and Santa Barbara to pursue his spiritual (Vedantic) path and lick personal wounds. After a decade of puttering and avoiding celebrity, young French piano wizard Pettrucciani literally sought out the recluse in Big Sur and inspired Lloyd to return to musical action. It was then that he first played at the Lobero, a most accommodating room for the intimate demands of acoustic jazz. Suffice to say, there should be plenty of harmonic, rhythmic, and historic convergences in the house on Friday. THINKING FOLKS’ GARDEN PARTY: Tierney Sutton, the wondrous workhorse jazz vocalist, has made plenty of friends and fans in Santa Barbara in the past two years, since she started playing here properly (not including her hotel gigging for rude patrons before her international career began, around 2000). She has played the Lobero and made juicy cameos with Chris Walden’s Big Band at SOhO. The impresario gods have decreed it’s time we heard Sutton in a garden party, and what better garden than Lotusland, the surreally lavish estate of Madame Ganna Walska and one of the more mesmerizing properties in town.
In a Lotusland benefit, Sutton and band perform this Sunday at 3 p.m.; the grounds will open an hour early. The great thing about Sutton is that her mastery of tone and phrasing appeals to a broad cross-section of listeners, from the straight-ahead crowd hypnotized by show tunes to music-heads keen on chops.
GUITARIST WITH HEAD DOWN: Santa Barbara rarely gets two significant jazz events on the same date, but such is the case next Wednesday. The rhythmically charged Mickey Hart-led project Planet Drum takes over the Lobero, but meanwhile, the impressive, underrated jazz guitarist Ben Monder plays with his trio at Center Stage Theater, fresh off a show in Monterey. Monder’s résumé includes work with Maria Schneider, Lee Konitz, and Paul Motian, and his sound mixes dark introspection and nimble virtuosity.
TO-DOINGS: Got a free weekend and a hankering to check out one of America’s greatest and oldest jazz festivals? Get thee to the 49th annual Monterey Jazz Festival. For more info, visit montereyjazzfestival.org. (Got e? email@example.com.)