Charles Lloyd is an NEA Jazz Master and recipient of the prestigious French honor, l'Ordre Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. Voted DownBeat magazine’s Jazzman of the year in 1967, Lloyd was again voted the 2023 Artist of the Year for his current body of work – the arc of his contribution to this artform starts in the early 1960s - the depth of his expression reflects a lifetime of experience. Lloyd has a legendary history in the music world, and could certainly be in a position to slow down and rest on his laurels. But looking back has never been of great interest to this tender warrior; “Go forward,” is his motto, as he keeps shifting to a higher, well calibrated gear.
In 1956 Lloyd moved to Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Southern California. During this period Lloyd played in Gerald Wilson's big band, and formed his own group that included Billy Higgins, Don Cherry, Bobby Hutcherson, Scott LaFaro, and Terry Trotter. Lloyd joined Chico Hamilton in 1960. His influence as a composer quickly pushed the group in a more progressive post-bop direction when Hamilton asked him to be the group's "music director." In 1964 Lloyd left Hamilton's group to join alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. He recorded two albums as a leader for Columbia Records, Discovery and Of Course, Of Course; his sidemen included Gabor Szabo, Don Friedman, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, and Pete La Roca. In 1965 Lloyd formed a quartet with pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Cecil McBee, and drummer Jack DeJohnette. It was a meeting of straight-ahead post-bop, free jazz, rock, and world music. Their music quickly caught the attention of jazz fans and critics. They achieved crossover success with young rock fans and became the first jazz group to play in the famed Fillmore. The album Forest Flower, Live at Monterey, sold over one million copies.
In 1970, Lloyd surprised the music world by walking away from performing just at the point that he was dubbed a jazz superstar. Actually, he was just following a trajectory that was taking him closer to the essence of the music he was hearing. During the 1970s Lloyd played occasionally with The Beach Boys both on their studio recordings and as a member of their touring band. When approached by pianist, Michel Petrucciani in 1981, he resumed performing for two years to help Petrucciani get a footing on the world stage, before retreating again to his secluded life in Big Sur. Following a near death experience in 1986, Lloyd decided to rededicate himself to music. In 1989, Lloyd reestablished an active touring schedule and began recording for ECM Records. Noteworthy albums include Fish Out of Water, Canto, Voice In The Night, The Water Is Wide (featuring Brad Mehldau, John Abercrombie, Larry Grenadier and Billy Higgins) and Sangam with Zakir Hussain and Eric Harland.
His "New Quartet" with Jason Moran, piano, Reuben Rogers, bass and Eric Harland, drums, has three recordings on ECM; Rabo de Nube (2008) was voted #1 recording for the 2008 Jazz Times Reader's and Critic's Poll, and Mirror (2010) and Passin’ Thru on Blue Note Records (2017). Commissioned by Jazztopad in Wroclaw, Poland to write a new composition to premiere at their 2013 festival, Lloyd wrote Wild Man Dance Suite for piano, bass, drums, cimbalom and lyra, released on Blue Note Records in April 2015. Lloyd formed a new group called The Marvels featuring Bill Frisell on guitar, Reuben Rogers, Eric Harland and Greg Leisz on steel guitar. Their first release I Long To See You (Blue Note 2016) featured guest tracks by Willie Nelson and Norah Jones. Vanished Gardens (Blue Notes Records 2018) is a Marvels collaboration with the great American singer and poet, Lucinda Williams.
Charles Lloyd maintains an active performance and recording schedule with the New Quartet, Sangam, Maria Farantouri, The Marvels and special projects around the world. He celebrated his 75th birthday with concerts in the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum and the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Lloyd and Jason Moran were commissioned by Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet to compose the score for a new ballet, “Azoth” which had its world premiere in October 1, 2019.
Charles Lloyd was awarded the prestigious honor of “Chevalier des Arts et Lettre” by the French Minister of Culture in August 2019.In celebration of his 80th birthday in 2018, Blue Note Records released a limited-edition box set, Kindred Spirits, Live from the Lobero featured fellow Memphian, Booker T. Jones. The box set includes CD, LP and DVD of the concert along with a 96-page book of photos commemorating Lloyd’s life and legacy. His newest recording, the sixth for Blue Note Records (2021) is Tone Poem, and once again, features the Marvels. In 2022 he released a Trio of Trios over a period of six months – each with a different ensemble. The first, Chapel with guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Thomas Morgan; the second, Ocean with pianist, Gerald Clayton and guitarist, Anthony Wilson, and the third, Sacred Thread with tabla master Zakir Hussain and guitarist Julian Lage.
2012 Brass Note on Beale Street
2013 Montreal International Jazz Festival Miles Davis Award
2014 Laureate Alfa Jazz International Music Award
2014 Monterey Jazz Festival Jazz Legend Award
2015 NEA Jazz Master Fellow
2015 Honorary Doctorate Berklee School of Music
2016 DownBeat Critics Poll Best Group "Charles Lloyd Quartet"
2016 JJA Tenor Saxophonist of the year
2016 Memphis Music Hall of Fame
2017 Jazz Times Critics Tenor Saxophone
2017 Lifetime Achievement Award, Jazz Gallery
2017 JJA Tenor Saxophonist of the year
2017 JJA Medium Group, Charles Lloyd & the Marvels
<2018 Downbeat Critics Poll Tenor Saxophonist
2019 Chevalier des Arts et Lettres
2020 DownBeat Critics Poll Tenor Saxophonist
2020 Jazz FM (UK) International Artist
2021 JJA Tenor Saxophonist of the year
2022 DownBeat Group of the Year
2022 Deutche Jazz Preis
2023 Jazz Journalist Association “Lifetime Achievement”
2023 Jazz Journalist Association “Tenor Saxophonist”
2023 DownBeat Artist of the Year
2023 DownBeat “Tenor Saxophonist”
2023 Jazz Foundation of America Lifetime Achievement Award