At 83, Charles Lloyd, like jazz itself, is alive and in the moment, or as he puts it, “the nowness.” The fact that jazz, the cultural progeny of Storyville, Kansas City, Memphis, Harlem, and 52nd Street, should be thriving in Santa Barbara makes perfect sense when you consider both the creative vision that Lloyd experiences looking out at the Pacific from his home in the hills above Montecito and the inspiration he derives from the many concerts he has played and will play at the Lobero Theater on East Canon Perdido. The greatest all-American art form thrives in our city thanks to the adventurous programing of the Jazz at the Lobero series and the quality of attention brought to these concerts by discerning Santa Barbara audiences.
Charles Lloyd will be back at his home venue on Saturday, October 16, with an exemplary quartet including Gerald Clayton (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), and Justin Brown on drums, and the faithful will turn out in force to hear what news he has to bring with his music. “Sensitive souls come out of the woodwork for something deep and real,” Lloyd told me by way of explanation, gracefully tapping into a well of eloquence that seems always easily available to him.
With his prolific recent recordings for the storied Blue Note label earning him critical accolades and invitations to play at great halls all over the world, Lloyd is riding a productive creative wave, all thanks to his good health and lifelong devotion to a jazz artist’s version of Zen. “What you’re looking for is looking for you,” he says, crediting music for providing us all with “a place where you can resolve a lot of inadequacies in your soul.”
While Clayton and Rogers will be familiar to those who have followed Lloyd’s music making over the years, drummer Justin Brown represents a new element in the potent mix of the Charles Lloyd Quartet. “He’s someone I’ve been keeping my eye on,” Lloyd told me, adding that the musician, who recently made his debut with the band in a concert at UCLA, “has a connection to the infinite.” It’s something that you might have heard when Brown was drumming with bass phenomenon Thundercat, or trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, both of whom have employed the percussionist extensively.
Lloyd’s most recent recordings reveal an abundance of ideas and an ongoing genius for group improvisation. Tone Poem, his most recent album with the Marvels, a band that features guitarists Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz, weaves brilliant new instrumental interpretations of music by Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk, and Gábor Szabó, among others. Released by Blue Note, it’s the first contemporary recording to get the deluxe treatment afforded by the label’s “Tone Poets” series of audiophile vinyl editions. The series, which includes albums by such luminaries as Dexter Gordon, Wayne Shorter, and Jackie McLean, is overseen by legendary producer Joe Harley. Its title, “Tone Poets,” grew out of the nickname “tone poet” that Lloyd gave Harley for his ability to capture the right sound in the studio.
The second most recent Lloyd release, 8: Kindred Spirits, also on Blue Note, was recorded live at the Lobero and received unanimous critical acclaim when it was released in 2020. Thom Jurek of Allmusic.com called it “one of Lloyd’s strongest live offerings to date.” Come out to hear him on Saturday, October 16, and you may well find yourself in the middle of yet another such special night.