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Jazz - Released February 8, 2013 | ECM

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Indispensable JAZZ NEWS - Hi-Res Audio
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Jazz - Released August 28, 2000 | ECM

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Like 1999's Voice in the Night, The Water Is Wide features Charles Lloyd in the company of one of his dearest friends, drummer Billy Higgins, who would pass away less than a year after the album's release. Guitarist John Abercrombie also remains on board, but Lloyd extends the group's generational span by recruiting two younger players: pianist Brad Mehldau and bassist Larry Grenadier. The album begins with a straightforward, elegant reading of Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia." Lloyd goes on to lead his ensemble through two lesser-known Ellington pieces, "Black Butterfly" and "Heaven"; Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom"; two original ballads, "Figure In Blue" and "Lady Day"; and Cecil McBee's "Song of Her," a track from Lloyd's 1968 classic, Forest Flower. It's a glorious amalgam of sound: the leader's unique, glissando-laden phraseology, Mehldau's harmonic nuances, unerring rhythmic backbone from Grenadier and the majestic Higgins -- and only occasionally, pointed and eloquent guitarism from Abercrombie. The session ascends to an even higher level with the inclusion of two spirituals, "The Water Is Wide" and "There Is a Balm in Gilead." The latter features just Lloyd and Higgins, starkly setting the melody against a hypnotic drum chant. In addition, Lloyd's closing "Prayer," written for Higgins during a life-threatening episode back in 1996, features just the composer, Abercrombie, and guest bassist Darek Oles. (Oddly, Oles' credit is relegated to the fine print.) These tracks, most of all, resonate with personal meaning and profundity. © David R. Adler /TiVo
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Jazz - Released February 8, 2013 | ECM

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Indispensable JAZZ NEWS
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Jazz - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Jazz - Released March 7, 2008 | ECM

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Jazz - Released April 14, 2015 | Blue Note (BLU)

Distinctions 5 Sterne Fono Forum Jazz
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Jazz - Released February 28, 2020 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released October 21, 2002 | ECM

As Charles Lloyd prepared to kick off a gig at New York's Blue Note club the night of Tuesday September 11, 2001, some murderous terrorists had some other plans for that morning a bit further south. The gig thus didn't begin until that Friday, and the wheels in Lloyd's mind kept on rolling through the aftermath, resulting in this double-CD album. Going his own way, he drew from public-domain spirituals, pop/rock songs, protest R&B, folk songs, and Ellingtonia and mixed them with his own compositions and meditations, assembling and reining in top-notch musicians like pianist Geri Allen, guitarist John Abercrombie, bassists Marc Johnson and Larry Grenadier, and drummer Billy Hart. The result is one of the most unusual and deeply spiritual recordings in Lloyd's always-unusual career, one that says more with fewer means. The leadoff track itself is an ear-opener, Lloyd's "Hymn to the Mother," which opens the gates with an Indian flavor, with its arco bass drone on a single chord and sitar-like articulation from Abercrombie. It's a miraculously subtle yet compelling way to grab your attention, like the introduction to a raga, thoughtfully sustained over 15 minutes. Somehow, the rest of the 130-minute album manages to maintain and develop the rapt atmosphere, reaching its central pivot of emotion three tracks into the second disc with the Coltrane quartet-like treatment of "Go Down Moses." As is often the case in a Lloyd performance, the tenor saxophonist is tempted to go to the outside, but usually in a gentle way, his head now in a thoughtful fog. Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" stays largely with the tune except toward the close, matching the haunted, dazed mood of the original. Billy Strayhorn is appropriately represented by "Blood Count"; Lloyd's own "Beyond Darkness" finds him on flute. Even "Amazing Grace," the over-exposed staple of every other folk or gospel revival, sounds fresh, devout, and genuine. Each disc concludes with something meaningful: Lloyd mourns alone and soulfully on "Hafez, Shattered Heart" at disc one's close and one more lengthy meditation, followed by an up-tempo release, "Prayer, the Crossing," ends disc two. Let responses like this from the jazz world be the real legacy of the aftermath of 9/11. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released February 12, 1999 | ECM

Charles Lloyd teams with a different band here, replacing Bobo Stenson's piano with John Abercrombie's guitar, bassist Anders Jormin with Dave Holland, and drummer Billy Hart with Billy Higgins. The title references the feeling on the album in that Lloyd was going for more of a jazz sound, something more basic and lyrical as opposed to exotic and unusual. Of the eight tunes here, six are Lloyd originals, one is a cover of the Elvis Costello/Burt Bacharach hit "God Give Me Strength," and one is the Billy Strayhorn classic, "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing," which follows a gorgeous reprise of Lloyd's own "Forest Flower" from the '60s. The Costello/Bacharach tune is the most telling for this band in that they take a standard pop melody and turn it into a modal exploration of harmony and chromatic invention. As Lloyd plays variations on the melody, the band turns one harmonic sequence into a pillar from Coltrane's version of "My Favorite Things" and back. The "Forest Flower" suite is awesome. The interplay between Lloyd and Abercrombie is fully realized as they trade flatted sevenths and then Abercrombie moves into augmented ninths and diminished sixths before both Lloyd and he solo against the harmonic body of the tune while retaining its melodic sensibility. It's just breathtaking. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released August 26, 2011 | ECM

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Jazz - Released April 5, 2013 | ECM

Saxophonist and composer Charles Lloyd is a perfect candidate for ECM's Old and New Masters box set series. He is an enigmatic bandleader, soloist, and composer who has spent extended periods off the scene. Lloyd left the public sphere in 1969 after selling millions of records, touring the world numerous times, playing rock festivals and concert halls. He briefly re-emerged in the early '80s with pianist Michel Petrucciani, but reentered a life of meditation and study. These five albums, beginning with 1990's Fish Out of Water, mark the beginning of his permanent return to jazz. He'd obviously kept up his chops during his silence; he emerged on these dates with a new, more intuitive lyricism, steeped in blues and Eastern tonalities and modalities, and a fresh approach to improvisation that included a rich display of the tenor (and flute) traditions. These five albums also tell another story, that of the musical partnership with pianist Bobo Stenson, whose participation on these recordings is as essential as Lloyd's. Stenson's trio recordings and session work revealed him early on to be a brilliant soloist with a highly individual, crystalline voice, and as a consummate ensemble player. Fish Out of Water also features bassist Palle Danielsson and drummer Jon Christensen. Both appear only on this disc. Bassist Anders Jormin joins the band on 1991's Notes from Big Sur and plays on the remainder of these recordings. Drummer Ralph Peterson seems an odd choice for this second ensemble and wasn't nearly as a seamlessly integrated into Lloyd's sound as Christensen, although he does add a swinging tension and driving physicality to many of these tunes, "Sam Song" and the two-part "Pilgrimage to the Mountain" in particular. Veteran drummer Billy Hart joined the band for 1993's The Call and plays on the final three albums here. From the entry of his elliptical, ticking cymbals on "Nocturne," it feels as if all the quartet's roles are properly balanced. The interplay between Hart and Jormin is symbiotic, complementary, full of compelling ideas. Stenson's colorful, limpid textures create a complete rhythm section that not only plays with Lloyd, but co-creates with him. Together they cemented and grew out that quartet relationship on 1994's fine All My Relations, and brought it to culmination on the stellar, deeply moving Canto from 1996. These five recordings mark not the tentative return of a jazzman to recording, but the first new statements by a true master who has brought only a trace of his earlier voice into the new one. His latter tone is more mercurial, spacious, inquisitive rather than declamatory; it is nimbler and far more emotional, as displayed on all 39 of the original compositions that appear here. This is a truly worthy box for those who discovered -- or rediscovered -- Lloyd only in the 21st century; they are all essential parts of his mature catalog. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released May 12, 1997 | ECM

Reed king Charles Lloyd has consistently exceeded expectations throughout his career, breaking ground in any number of jazz forms, particularly those associated with the employing of the various folk musics of the world as elemental melodic and harmonic components of his signature practice in the idiom. Canto reveals Lloyd's inner restlessness at work once again with longtime pianist Bobo Stenson, bassist Anders Jormin, and the legendary American drummer Billy Hart. The set opens with "Tales of Rumi," which has Stenson playing inside the piano, and Hart sliding around the kit without ever actually hitting it. When Lloyd enters after a lengthy intro, he does so in a post-bop phraseology that brings the tune full circle, transforming from a folk melody to a blues tune. Later, on "Nichiketa's Lament," Lloyd uses a Tibetan oboe with its high, reedy tone to play funeral music that actually becomes an exercise in pan-modalism. The title track is actually a song of sorts, based on Jimmy Giuffre's harmonic methodology and Coltrane's breather and note theory. The set closes with an unbelievably beautiful, cascading ballad where the band falls through its changes like water in a brook, and Lloyd blows through them with a heartbreaking lyrical intensity. Canto is the song of a master who employs all of his tools in the creation of a work of art. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released March 7, 2008 | ECM

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Given that Charles Lloyd has been recording for Manfred Eicher's ECM label since 1989, it seems odd that Rabo de Nube (translation: Tail of a Cloud) is his first live quartet outing for the imprint, though he's done so in other combinations. Yet, given that this recording was issued a mere four days before the great saxophonist's 70th birthday, it is also a full circle of sorts for the Lloyd Quartet. Most of Lloyd's early quartet albums were recorded live for Atlantic between 1966 and 1968, seven in total, with the live band recording its first date over 40 years ago and featuring a young Keith Jarrett as its pianist. This association became a blueprint of sorts for a lineage of his subsequent pianists who have all gone on to their own measures of excellence as leaders: Michel Petrucciani, Bobo Stenson, Brad Mehldau, and Geri Allen. Jason Moran, the pianist here, is a leader in his own right, having also played with Wayne Shorter and Lee Konitz, to name just two; more importantly, his teachers offer a clue as to how his highly individual voice was developed -- Andrew Hill, Jaki Byard, and Muhal Richard Abrams. Moran joins Lloyd and longtime -- and immensely gifted -- drummer Eric Harland (who went to high school with Moran in Houston) and new bassist Ruben Rogers, who has previously been a member of groups led by the late Jackie McLean, Roy Hargrove, and Mulgrew Miller. Recorded in Basel during the band's European tour in 2007, the band takes a very different approach to some familiar tunes. For starters, it has to do with style: Moran is a more physical player than many of the pianists Lloyd has employed in the past; his playing is more chord-oriented and percussive, less elegant and soulful than Allen's perhaps, less ornate than Petrucciani's, and certainly less contemplative than Stenson's. The material choices are wide-ranging. There's the hard-blowing "Prometheus," on which Lloyd and Moran walk the margins of free jazz as Harland pushes them toward it and Rogers holds down a flowing rhythmic tempo, elaborating on the choruses juxtaposing rhythm and harmonic investigation. Another blower on the set is "Sweet Georgia Bright," which Lloyd has played live in the past, but was first recorded when he was a member of Cannonball Adderley's group in 1964 with pianist Joe Zawinul. Moran's funky, hard-driving solo and the interplay of the rhythm section are remarkable. Lloyd's immense ability to soar with a nugget like this, influsing it with new fire is an asterisk that highlights his place as one of the true (if largely unsung) masters of the horn. Lloyd's alto flute gets a beautiful workout on "Booker's Garden," written for classmate Booker Little. His lyricism is only eclipsed by his deep soul groove -- which Moran takes to the bank in his own solo that lends the tune a different dynamic, one much bolder and centered in the middle of the keyboard. The playing by Rogers on the track is beautiful, using a Caribbean rhythmic pulse that allows Harland to dance around the soloists and make the backbeat slippery and fluid. The closing title track was offered in a live quintet version on Lift Every Voice, the pickup band album recorded four days after 9/11. This one is quieter, sweeter, and more lyric and gentle, and a perfect way to end a show -- it is also the only non-original on the set. Fans of Lloyd's taragato playing will not be disappointed; it makes a grand appearance on the lengthy "Ramanujan." Moran's interaction and contrapuntal rhythmic exchanges with Harland are something to behold here; they push around and through one another in a call-and-response interchange that is subtle but forceful nonetheless. Rogers' way of playing between these two is like that of a telephone wire, bringing it all together. Of the seven tunes here, five are over ten minutes long. In other words, there is a lot of improvisation going on, but it is all deeply communicative and lyrical -- Lloyd's trademark for the last five decades as a composer, soloist, arranger, and bandleader. Ultimately, Rabo de Nube is yet another essential Lloyd offering from ECM. His sense of adventure is greater than ever, and his embrace of the tradition is equaled by his willingness to stretch it, bend it, turn it every which way but break it -- this band, with its energy and commitment to new jazz, is well-suited for that task and Moran certainly adds to the bounty considerably. Lloyd shows no signs of slowing down or simple contentment as he ages, and we are all the more fortunate for it. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released July 17, 2012 | Columbia

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Jazz - Released March 22, 2004 | ECM

Over two CDs, these recordings of Charles Lloyd and his longtime collaborator and friend, the late Billy Higgins, offer perhaps an even more fitting epitaph for the great drummer than the previously issued Water Is Wide and companion album Hyperion With Higgins, both with the Lloyd sextet. These sides were recorded just five months before Higgins' death. The music is divided into eight suites, and the two men pulled every trick out of the kit bag for these sessions. Lloyd mans his usual array of saxophones and flutes as well as sings and plays taragato, Tibetan oboe, and piano. Higgins, on the other hand, in addition to his ever-dancing style of drumming, plays blues guitar, guimbri, various hand drums, and the Syrian one-string lute. The combinations are intimate yet the music is sprawling in its reach. Whether in duet or in the various solos included -- notable is "All This Is That: Blues Tinge," on which Higgins plays a stellar Delta blues on acoustic guitar and sings -- the notion that there are no boundaries and no time, that everything must get onto tape, is the pervasive m.o. Here are two men who know each other so well that the anticipation of utterance comes from the least likely sources. Egos have no place here, and neither does didactic discussion. Here, notions of song, tonality, sonorous expression, and spirituality are the guidelines for trying to get to feelings, nuances, and individual places that they've not traveled before. They succeed in spades. Despite its smallness and the quiet spirit that weaves these pieces together, there is crackling energy, humor, warmth, and a complete commitment to expressing what may indeed be beyond real expression. Not since John Coltrane and Rashied Ali's Interstellar Space -- though they sound nothing alike -- has there been a duet recording of such unfettered communication. Highly recommended. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released September 3, 2001 | ECM

The December 1999 sessions that produced The Water Is Wide yielded enough material for a second album. Hyperion With Higgins is the result, and its title reflects the sad fact that Billy Higgins, Lloyd's friend and soul mate and the session's drummer, passed away not long after the music was put to tape. The music's spiritual quality is heightened by the after-the-fact dedication. Quite unlike The Water Is Wide, Hyperion With Higgins is comprised entirely of Lloyd's original compositions, although the same lineup is featured: Lloyd, Higgins, John Abercrombie, Brad Mehldau, and Larry Grenadier. After a couple of fairly straightforward jazz pieces ("Dancing Waters, Big Sur to Bahia" and "Bharati"), the quintet delves into two longer works: "Secret Life of the Forbidden City" and the Coltrane-esque "Miss Jessye." They then romp through the title track, a spirited mid-tempo blues, before tackling the album's centerpiece: the five-part "Darkness on the Delta Suite," an ambitious, free-leaning melange of Eastern and rural blues connotations (with a brilliant solo interlude by Abercrombie). The last two pieces -- "Dervish on the Glory B" and "The Caravan Moves On" -- depart almost completely from jazz vernacular. The former recalls the upbeat, folk-like drone of the sunset portion of "Forest Flower," while the latter, featuring Lloyd on taragato, evokes not only the Middle Eastern desert, but also the inexorable march of time. Thus does a fitting homage to the departed Higgins conclude this exceptionally focused, all-original statement from Charles Lloyd. © David R. Adler /TiVo
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Jazz - Released April 4, 2005 | ECM

Since making a middle-of-life comeback in the 1990s, saxophonist, composer, and bandleader Charles Lloyd has continually issued fascinating recordings. While some of them contain missteps, it's not for lack of ambition. For one of jazz's elder statesmen, Lloyd pushes his envelope of ideas about improvisation, rhythm and harmony, often to the breaking point. He is a player who sets sometimes impossibly high goals for himself, but in so doing, gives listeners something to really hold on to when encountering one of his albums or seeing him live. Jumping the Creek, which continues his association with ECM Records, is another compelling affair. The band -- pianist Geri Allen, bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Eric Harland -- is simply outstanding. Allen, particularly, hasn't shined on a record like this thus far this decade. Lloyd's compositional ideas here come from rhythmic phrases, small harmonic vamps and emotional thematics. Lloyd engages his quartet in various ways, sometimes in duets, sometimes trios, sometimes as a full band, often during the same composition. The whole quartet does engage fully on the 13-plus-minute opener "Ne Me Quitte Pas," with skeletal phrases becoming larger, striated harmonic statements as Allen uses both modal and post-bop concerns to flesh out the body of the tune. The saxophone/drums duet in "Ken Katta Ma Om," is an utterly lovely change-up that follows. The rest of the band doesn't even enter until halfway through. And Allen does this as a way of introducing a contrapuntal solo that touches upon both Andrew Hill and Lennie Tristano. The title track uses trio and quartet settings to explore the various tensions in melody. Lloyd is a master of moving from gorgeous, gently swinging balladry to blues-drenched free blowing, on a dime. "The Sufi's Tears" features Lloyd on taragato -- a soprano saxophone-like instrument used in Middle Eastern and Indian music. Accompanied only by Hurst's bowed bass, the mournful melody slips off into ether as improvisation wanders into the heart of the frame and remains. It's exotic and tight. "Georgia Bright Smile," is another long work in which the band changes configurations repeatedly in the course of its execution, winding around Lloyd's themes and Allen's painterly pianism. Hurst is particularly impressive here as he trades fours with Allen in his solo. Ultimately however, this, like Lloyd's other recordings on ECM is about emotion, feeling, and a sense of peace and serenity. Lloyd uses the rough places in his improvisations, to be sure, but it is only to make the rough places plain, limpid, utterly integrated in a serene whole. On Jumping the Creek he succeeds seamlessly and ups his own artistic ante. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released April 4, 2006 | ECM

Sangam is Charles Lloyd's 11th recording for ECM. All of these albums have been compelling in their way. They have stretched both artist and audience to varying degrees. This set, recorded live in 2004 at a theater in Santa Barbara during homage for the late Billy Higgins, was Lloyd's debut performance with Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain (Shakti), and drummer/percussionist Eric Harland (Lloyd's quartet drummer). What started as a one-off by three players brought together for one purpose has become Sangam, a going concern. This music, while rooted in the rhythms of the world, is jazz without a doubt. Lloyd plays everything from tenor and soprano to flutes, taragato, piano, and some percussion. While Lloyd is the centerpiece and is the melodic and harmonic bridge, what's on offer here is something truly unexpected, something wildly original and essential to jazz-improvisatory communication: the interplay between Harlan's trap drums and Hussain's tablas is utterly astonishing. The rhythm section sings, squawks, whispers, and cries, and Lloyd, in his grace, plays his ass off while making plenty of room for this rather miraculous interaction. There is complete freedom here between percussive voices. Lloyd's allowance for, and encouragement of that space is remarkable for any leader, but his willingness to let the music unfold and happen is compelling, magical, and gives true definition to the term "Sangam," a defintion, according to the liner notes, of "confluence and coming together." The entire soloist rhythm section idea has been tossed. It means less than nothing here, and probably didn't occur to any of the players once the music began happening. The jam opens with Lloyd on taragato for "Dancing on One Foot," digging deep in acknowledging upfront the ensemble's debt to Eastern origins. But it goes so much further. "Tales of Rumi" is pure flow. Lloyd's tenor playing through modes and tonalities from the blues to Sufi music, with Hussain setting a pulse that Harland underscores, improvises upon, and then creates another pulse where Hussain takes off and creates yet another rhythm and its mirror image, as Lloyd listens deeply and sings the song. "Sangam" is introduced by a dialogue between Harland and Hussain, setting some otherworldly space for Lloyd to enter. He falls into their folded dimensionality and begins from the heart of their dialogue on his tenor. One can hear the Coltrane of "Africa" here, as well as Eric Dolphy's bop-stretched harmonics. But most importantly, one can hear Lloyd, his voice so sure-footed, his ear so finely tuned to what is happening around him that he allows himself to be carried by that stream of percussive ideas and accents as he hears them, and speaks something deep, definite, and open in order to prod the pair on. It goes like this for the entire 65 minutes. From one place lyric and melodious that breaks through to another song form as yet unheard in this piece by anyone playing it ("Hymn to the Mother") to another full of ritual space and Indian classicism -- Hussain's "Guman," that pays homage to the discipline of his father -- the effect is the same: its mystery is revealed as it happens, and creates as many questions as it answers. There is a jazzman's sense of adventure in all of this, however, and Lloyd, Hussain, and Harland honor that spirit and, as always, knowing the music's great generosity of spirit, brings in everything that feels right while freely giving props -- sonically -- to the territories it derives that inspiration and generosity from. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released April 14, 2015 | Blue Note (BLU)

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Jazz - Released April 1, 1992 | ECM

On Notes From Big Sur, Charles Lloyd retains pianist Bobo Stenson but opts for a new rhythm section in bassist Anders Jormin and drummer Ralph Peterson. The program begins with two elegant jazz ballads, "Requiem" and "Sister" (the former would reappear on 1999's Voice in the Night). Lloyd turns toward abstraction on "Takur" and the two-part "Pilgrimage to the Mountain"; the second part, "Surrender," closes the album as a kind of benediction. The middle of the program is pretty meaty: "Sam Song," with its swinging tempo, does much to brighten the mood, as does the waltz "Monk in Paris" and the heavy, slow groove of "When Miss Jessye Sings" -- an homage, one can assume, to the opera singer Jessye Norman. With an unapologetically assertive rhythm team and scintillating solo flights from Lloyd and Stenson, Notes From Big Sur successfully portrays the California coastline for which it is named -- picturesque and soothing, although rugged and at times forbidding. © David R. Adler /TiVo

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Charles Lloyd in the magazine
  • Charles Lloyd, still going strong
    Charles Lloyd, still going strong Lyrical, spiritual and free, the live recording of the great American saxophonist's 80th birthday celebration has just been released on Blue Note...
  • ECM turns 50!
    ECM turns 50! Manfred Eicher’s Munich-born music label celebrates half a century of jazz different from the norms, bringing the traditionally African-American genre to Europe and beyond…