Charles Lloyd - tenor sax, flute; Steve "Blackbyrd" McKnight - guitar; Sherman "Celestial Songhouse" McKinney - electric bass; Woody "Sonship" Theus - drums
With such potent offerings as 1966's Dream Weaver (with Keith Jarrett, Cecil McBee, and Jack DeJohnette), 1967's psychedelic Love-In, and 1968's live Forest Flower, saxophonist Charles Lloyd began courting the Age of Aquarius crowd. The most visible of the post-Trane tenor players who came to the fore after John Coltrane's death on July 17, 1967, Lloyd has had a shamanistic quality about him both in his demeanor and in his heightened, spiritually-tinged performances. He continues to mesmerize audiences to this day at age 72.
By 1973, Jarrett and DeJohnette had both gone through the ranks of Miles Davis' electric band and were well on the way with their respective solo careers. Lloyd had replaced piano in his lineup with the guitar of Steve "Blackbyrd" McKnight (later to record with Herbie Hancock, P-Funk, and Miles Davis) while the drum chair was filled by an explosive young chopsmeister named Woody Theus, who by the late '70s was known only as "Sonship" and was gigging with the likes of McCoy Tyner and John McLaughlin's One Truth Band. Together with bassist
Sherman "Celestial Songhouse" McKinney, they performed a set of music from 1973's Geeta Suite that ranged from meditative and transcendent jams to Trane-inspired modal excursions during this afternoon outdoor performance at the Wollman Ampitheater in Central Park.
The opening number used a reference to Coltrane's peaceful "After the Rain" (from Impressions) as a jumping off point for some heady collective improvisation, possibly Lloyd's own Trane-inspired"Love Ship" from Dream Weaver. For the lively second number, Lloyd switches to flute and McKnight digs into some Hendrix-inspired wah-wah licks on his heavily distorted electric guitar, at times sounding like he's ripping the speakers of his amp in the course of wailing with such sick abandon. Fans of Sonny Sharrock or Pete Cosey's audacious six-string work with Miles Davis on Agharta and Pangaea (recorded two years later in Japan) are going to want to check this out.
Born in Memphis on March 15, 1938, Lloyd began playing the saxophone at the age of 9. He worked in the band of pianist Phineas Newborn from the age of 12 and as a teenager worked as sideman in the blues bands of B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Johnnie Ace, Bobbie "Blue" Bland, and others. By age 18, Lloyd moved to Los Angeles and while working on his Master's degree from the University of Southern California began playing in Gerald Wilson's big band. In 1960, he joined Chico Hamilton's progressive chamber jazz quintet, eventually becoming musical director. He left Hamilton's group in 1964, to join the Cannonball Adderly Quintet and the following year formed his own quartet with pianist, Keith Jarrett, bassist, Cecil McBee (later, Ron McClure), and drummer, Jack DeJohnette. Their crossover appeal landed them gigs at Bill Graham's famed rock emporium, the Fillmore, and by 1966 they were playing festivals like the Monterey Jazz Festival, where their blend of meditative grooves, free jazz, and infectious boogaloos with heady improvisation went over well with the young crowd (documented on the live Forest Flower).
Following a successful run with Atlantic Records through the mid-'70s, Lloyd went into a kind of semi-retirement, emerging in 1981, with French piano sensation Michel Petrucciani as his collaborative partner. There followed a string of luminous, inspired recordings on the ECM label through the '80s and '90s with such stellar European musicians as Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson, Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, Swedish bassist Palle Danielsson, and a highly regarded crew of American musicians, including guitarist John Abercrombie, drummers Billy Higgins and Billy Hart, pianists Brad Mehldau and Geri Allen, and bassist Larry Grenadier. In 2004, Lloyd formed his Sangam trio with tabla master Zakir Hussain and young drummer Eric Harland. His new quartet, featuring pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Roger, and drummer Harland, has two acclaimed releases on ECM - 2008's Rabo de Nube and 2010's Mirror. (Milkowski)