Charles Lloyd 8: Kindred Spirits, Live From the Lobero Box Set

Charles Lloyd turns 82 tomorrow (March 15th). Two years ago, to celebrate his 80th, Dorothy Darr, his wife/manager and herself an artist, threw a year-long party for him and as a present made him work.

Lloyd and his group toured, with each stop a celebration. On his birthday the entourage pulled into his hometown of Santa Barbara, California and performed at the 150 year old Lobero Theater.

The annotation notes that Lloyd has played there more often than any other venue and more often than any other performer, so it was a true homecoming celebration with “kindred spirits” on-stage and in the audience.

Long time collaborators and touring band mates bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland are joined here by Gerald Clayton who’s been associated with Lloyd since 2013 on tour and in the studio, young guitarist wiz Julian Lage, Booker T. Jones (who like Lloyd hails from Memphis where they went to school together, though a few classes apart) and Blue Note President Don Was.

From how the group moves through the not surprisingly eclectic set you’d think all have been out on tour.

The set is available as a CD/DVD, double LP/DVD containing the first half of the show and as a deluxe, limited edition box set that includes the concert in its entirety on two CDs, 3 LPs and DVD along with a hard bound 96 page book lovingly put together by Darr, filled with great photos taken throughout Lloyd’s journey that’s a hardcore fan’s “must have”. More about that later! Two large format photos, one signed, are also included.

While Lloyd’s Cinerama-wide musical eclecticism is not on display on this set, it’s plenty wide, opening with “Dream Weaver” the title tune from Lloyd’s Atlantic Records debut featuring the stellar Lloyd/Keith Jarrett/Cecil McBee/Jack DeJohnette quartet recorded 6 months before the live at Monterrey Forest Flower album that propelled Lloyd to near pop-stardom, a version of title tune of which is included here.

This 21 minute long “Dream Weaver” gives everyone a chance to stretch out, with Lloyd first laying down his busy, mystical butterfly flutter chased by Lage’s guitar. The two calmly circle around each other a few minutes in, after which Lloyd gets as deeply into the ‘60s as he gets in this concert, followed by the 32 year old Lage around eleven minutes in choosing to visit musically a decade in which he never lived! The crowd digs it!

Lloyd’s ruminative “Requiem” follows, lowering somewhat the opener’s heat. Lloyd’s take on the traditional, “La Llorona” opens with a dramatic Clayton solo stating the tragic, cinematic theme about an unloved woman who drowns her children and then herself. Lloyd makes the flutters cry and wail and you might too, though you can be sure he never descends into bathos.

The Lloyd original “Part 5. Ruminations” is the set’s most abstract and loose formed—a gift to Charles that allows the birthday boy (and Lage, who makes it seem as if the two have played together for decades) to stretch and indulge their inner improvs. About 7 minutes in there’s some serious guitar mischief! Harland takes an old fashioned extended popcorn popping drum solo.

Returning from the break the set becomes more tuneful and pleasingly “earthbound”, though it opens with the hymn “Abide With Me” augmented by Booker T.’s Hammond organ that gives Lloyd an opportunity to musically give thanks. Lage, Booker T. and Rogers hit it out of the church on this one after which inspires Lloyd’s heavenly return. The audience seems for a second unable to gather its wits to applaud.

Booker T. then sings “Song For Charles”, a tune he’s written for the “Memphis boy born and raised”. Jones sums it up nicely adding “Charles is a gift to the world, to me and you”.

Things get funky with Booker T.’s backing on Lloyd’s “Island Blues”, which Lloyd first played (I think) in 1963 on Chico Hamilton’s Man From Two Worlds (Impulse A-59 ) that also contains a version of “Forest Flower” along with four other Lloyd originals. He arranged that album as well, at age 25, though he joined Hamilton’s group in 1960 when he was 22!

A gorgeous Lage led version of “Shenandoah” follows with Booker T.’s appropriately meandering organ undulating below. Charles takes it home with a “trilling” flourish.

Lloyd sambas out on flute on “Sombrero Sam” also from Dream Weaver, followed by the set’s only misfire, a less than funky cover of Booker T. & the M.G.’s “Green Onions”. The fun is in hearing how a “top shelf” jazz ensemble tries but can’t “get down”!

Of course, “Forest Flower” concludes the concert proper with Billy Preston’s “You are So Beautiful” the denouement that sums up Charles Lloyd! Never met the man but wish I’d been there.

About that hardcovered book: it’s a very personal collection filled with pictures of multi-ethnicity (if Wikipedia is to be believed: African, Cherokee, Mongolian and Irish) Charles through the years, shape-shifting and changing and looking as eclectic, and through the pages, as you turn them, as surprising to see as his music sounds, though always, well almost always with a joyful and/or mischievous look on his face.

In her opener Darr writes that Lloyd entered her heart through sound and “set up residence”. She rightly calls him “enigmatic”. As you thumb through the pages that word will continually pop up in your mind. You’ll recognize some people but probably not all or maybe not even most.

I love that they are not identified on the pages. Only at the end is there a page identifying all of them, should you care to know. Not that it really matters.

There’s collegiate-looking Charles in 1957 with the horn rimmed glasses in L.A. with Bobby Hutherson on vibes. There’s a great shot of him with Nat and Cannonball Adderley. Another on the same page where, wearing a hat, he cops an almost punk attitude. Pages later he’s intense with the Monterrey era quartet of Jarrett, McBee, and DeJohnette. On page 21, hair cut, wearing a cowboy shirt and an unusually solemn face he’s unrecognizable. There’s Charles the world music musician, Charles morphing into a beatnik phase. There’s Charles putting on a few too many pounds and then trimming down. There’s Charles with my “Tone Poet” friend Joe Harley and with Don Was who signed him and who watched Lloyd enter an adventurous collaborative phase releasing great and popular records with The Marvels and Lucinda Williams.

Lloyd’s unusual collaborations are hardly new: he toured with a version of The Beach Boys, played on Surf’s Up, Holland and on Roger McGuinn’s eponymous album. He’s on a Doors album too. He never worried that by making these appearances his “image” or his jazz “authenticity” might be questioned because there was no question about it.

If you’re a fan, you’ll surely enjoy “attending” the full concert, which is also well recorded (though “purists” might not enjoy heavily panned drums) and certainly enjoy thumbing through the “family” photo album Ms. Darr so generously shares with the fans.

You can be sure that Charles Lloyd endured tough times growing up in the pre/post WWII era. While some artists expressed that tumult in their music, Lloyd chose to operate on a more inspired plane. You can see it in the photos and hear it in the music. His Memphis pal Booker T. had it right: Charles Lloyd is a gift to the world.

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garyalex's picture

I think this was recorded at the same venue as the "Sangam" album. Incredible sound. This looks like a purchase for me. Thanks Michael.

ilbiffo's picture

Dear Mr.Fremer
I ask that thanks your authority ,competence,recognised worldwide of saying to Blue Note to have greater care in doing vinyl to avoid vinyl dished,and to produce CD that respect the red book standard so as to be read not only from consumer CD player.
All the vinyl lovers and audophiles know how many vinyl are dished and not perfecly flat: I bought Charles Lloyd with Lucinda Williams and three substitutions were not enough to have a flat copy.

Michael Fremer's picture
Is really a pressing plant not a label issue. Sometimes a pressing issue like you describe “infects” multiple copies pressed close together in time....
ilbiffo's picture

You are right,is a pressing plant issue ,but for my experience the defective records percentage continue to increase and in this way they will kill the vinyl ,one time the vinyls were better made.

Michael Fremer's picture
I have plenty of bad pressing stories from the '60s but mostly from the '70s during the oil crisis...oh boy! Really bad!
HiFiMark's picture

Lovely recording, flat quiet vinyl. But only 3 sides? Really? I'm a bit speechless.
Disappointed Blue Note would issue only 3 sides when obviously they could have filled up both discs.
Seems like a money grab with the deluxe box. I love Blue Note, but this 1.5 LP version is rather weak for those of us who don't / can't buy the deluxe issue of everything.