Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Raising Our Sails

The Solent at Hill Head

"The winds of grace are always blowing, it is for us to raise our sails higher"

I recently watched a DVD published by the ECM label about the jazz* woodwind player and band leader Charles Lloyd, Arrows into Infinity. By any standards, Lloyd has had a remarkable career, starting out in Howlin' Wolf's backing band and progressing to his current status as an internationally-respected musician, with a million-selling album along the way, Forest Flower (released in 1966, and featuring a very young Keith Jarrett), which opened the door to sharing the bill with the likes of Hendrix and the Grateful Dead.  There was also a decade of silence, recovering from heroin-addiction, and discovering and following his spiritual path at Big Sur.

Lloyd is a major figure in that cerebral, spiritually-oriented, improvisatory lineage that includes John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Billy Higgins, one which seems to predispose musicians to an open-minded collaborative approach with players from other traditions and genres.  His is an interesting story that crosses the paths of many interesting people, which makes for an engaging film.  If you get a chance to see it, do.

The words at the head of this post (adapted from the 19th century guru Ramakrishna) are quoted by Lloyd towards the end, and I found them inspiring enough to scribble down as I watched. It was fun, over the weekend, to watch wind-surfers on the Solent putting these words into prosaic practice, catching the blustery tail end of Hurricane Bertha.  Some raised their sail so high they were practically blown away.

Equally inspiring is Charles Lloyd's apparently endless selection of idiotic hats.  Why do musicians like to wear "characterful" hats, even indoors?  They surely can't all be bald.

And with that profound thought, we raise our own sails, and head off for our summer blog break.  See you later, probably some time in September.  I hope you have a good summer.

*  What an inadequate word "jazz" is to cover the range of musics that get lumped together under that label.  It's like describing Paul Simon or David Bowie as a pop musician.  Unfortunately, I don't think any other word works, either.


Unknown said...

Thanks for this. I own just about every recording by Lloyd I can lay hands on. The recent 'Last Dance' with Keith Jarrett is one to sleep with under your pillow....
... almost 13 years ago, to the week (a few days after 9-11), my wife and I were on a forlorn but love-filled honey-moon in Chicago, and we walked into a small jazz club - with Charles Lloyd on stage. He and his pals played intensely, intensely for about 10 minutes. No words. Then, in a swelling silence, he closed his eyes, walked up close to us all, and talked about how, at moments like this, humanity needs music, art, kindness. An amazing musician and human being.

Mike C. said...


A friend has given me a ticket to see Charles Lloyd in November in London -- looking forward to it, though it will be in a rather less intimate venue.

I am a man whose spirituality constantly wrestles with his skepticism, and rarely wins (you may have noticed...). The achievement of an artist like Charles Lloyd is to call off the wrestling match, temporarily.