Krakow, June 28, 2018




Charles Lloyd is a jazz legend and one of the last among the great players of  modern jazz. This year he has turned 80, and remembering that he started playing saxophone in the 1940's, his life story is also the story of modern jazz. When he was a child he was taught by pianist Phineas Newborn, Jr and his childhood friend was trumpeter Booker Little. Still being a teenager, he gained experience playing with George Coleman, Harold Mabern and Frank Strozier. All three were  from Memphis, Tennessee where Charles Lloyd was born and raised. This may as well explain his interest in blues, country and rock. Teenage Lloyd worked with Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland and Johnny Ace. At 18 he moved to LA to study music and in the local jazz clubs he played with Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Eric Dolphy, Scott LaFaro, Bobby Hutcherson, Charlie Haden or Billy Higgins and with the Gerald Wilson big band.

The next sixty years were even more fruitful. Especially his quartet with Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette and Cecil McBee became famous and their million-selling album Forest Flower. And work with the Doors, the Byrds or the Beach Boys or being on the same bill with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Cream or Jefferson Airplane. So country, blues, free jazz, avant-garde jazz, psychedelic rock or folk have always been there. 

Well, they still are, along with the hippie era attitude of love, peace, freedom. And the songs of social protest and antiwar songs by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger. All these things constitute Lloyd's message to the world. Such was a general atmosphere of the Krakow gig by his latest band Charles Lloyd and The Marvels featuring Bill Frisell.

The quintet had a huge delay as there was trouble at the border. The previous day the band kicked off their European tour playing at the Leopolis Jazz Festival in Lviv in Ukraine. And then, instead of getting high on a plane to Krakow, they chose the hard road - traveling through Babylon by bus. They were stopped at the border and very thoroughly checked well beyond a standard level. When it became clear they were not terrorists, did not smuggle drugs or weapons, they were allowed to continue traveling.

So they arrived in Krakow late, tired and upset. The venue, the Kijów (Kiev) cinema theater was filled to capacity but the audience was patient, knowing the circumstances. And although Charles Lloyd apologized for not being on top form, the performance was absolutely fabulous. The perfect mix of jazz, country, folk and pop was enchanting and mesmerizing.

Despite all the turmoil earlier in the day, Lloyd remained udisturbed and peaceful. His tone was quiet, soft and cool for most of the concert. He seemed to be a bridge between two guys on the left and the two on the right. On his left were musicians in the rhythm section: bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland. Lloyd has been playing with them for ages and so they know and understand one another excellently. On his right were the two master guitarists: Bill Frisell on his Fender and Greg Leisz on pedal steel.

During all the concert there was one lively, a bit funky solo from Reuben Rogers and two exploding solos by Eric Harland, perhaps to bring balance to this otherwise rather peaceful and mellow performance. This was secured by Charles Lloyd's immaculate tenor and flute gentle blowing and cool comping and soloing by Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz. And at one point the Charles Lloyd trio left the stage leaving the two guitar Marvels alone to create more relaxed atmospheric music.

Lloyd did not speak much except for his final statement in which he expressed his views. In a light tone he was talking about serious matters, about what had happened earlier that day and about the world today.

That night the overall sound was perfect and the music and musical stories refined and captivating. When jazz and Americana are tastefully mixed by great music masters the result must be sheer beauty.























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