Saxophonist and composer Charles Lloyd has been a strong and important voice in the jazz world since the late 1950s. This freewheeling, fascinating unauthorized biography -- based on twenty years' worth of interviews -- covers the extreme ups and downs of an uncommonly eventful life, often in the musician's own words. The story begins in the heated musical milieu of Memphis in the Forties and Fifties, where Lloyd grew up with Phineas Newborn Jr and Booker Little and cut his professional teeth as a teen playing with such blues giants as Howlin' Wolf. After high school, he moved to Los Angeles, where he attended USC and began to work with the Gerald Wilson and Chico Hamilton bands, Scott LaFaro, Gabor Szabo, Don Cherry, and others. Following a table stint with Hamilton's ensemble, contributing compositions and arrangements as well as playing, Lloyd joined Cannball Adderley's band and moved to New York. There he worked with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Richard Davis, Henry Grimes, Roy Haynes, and many others. In the mid-Sixties, Lloyd put together a landmark quartet, showcasing the young Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, and Cecil McBee. It skyrocketed the saxophonist to fame -- recording best-selling albums, winning Down Beat's 1967 Artist of the Year, and becoming the first jazz musician to play the famed Fillmore auditoriums. But just as suddenly, Lloyd vanished from the scene in the early Seventies, embarking on a fifteen-year spiritual quest. During this hiatus from the jazz world, spent in Big Sur and Santa Barbara, he occasionally worked with the Beach Boys and other pop musicians. To the delight of many, Lloyd reappeared in the early Nineties, recording for the ECM label, fronting a series of impressive bands featuring pianists Bobo Stensen, Geri Allen, Brad Mehldau, and Jason Moran; drummers Billy Higgins and Billy Hart; and other luminaries. Recent groups have included an eclectic array of performers, including Bill Frisell and Zakir Hussain. Lloyd's music is w stronger than ever, as is his career, with acclaim coming from both critics and the public. In 2015 he received a NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship and signed with the Blue Note record label.
Josef Woodard is a freelance cultural journalist-criticcovering jazz and other musics, art, and film. He has been a contributor to Down Beat and Jazz Times, as well as the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, Jazziz, Jazz Hot, and other publications. He won an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for jazz writing in 1998.