Courtesy of Charles Lloyd



Charles Lloyd is one of my favorite tenors. Perhaps, it is because he wears a Kangol, as I have found myself often doing. Perhaps, it is because of his musical intergrity. Or perhaps, it is because he has improved with time. Lloyd has aged very well. I hear his material on ECM and it puts his Atlantic material to shame. Most of all, I think it is because he is just that good. His quartet with Billy Higgins is like the Rams offense - unstoppable. Being there is a treat. But those of you that could not afford to take a roadtrip with the Weekly Roadshow, Lloyd does have a brand new release on ECM that ought to be in everyone's collection (but only if you are serious). What follows is a remarkable conversation (although one sided) with a remarkable tenorman, unedited and in his own words.

CHARLES LLOYD: (At the time of the interview, Charles Lloyd was reading a review I had written of his Canto release) Were you there that night, Fred, when that woman asked why I had never played there (Jazz Bakery, Culver City) before and I said that my mother didn't want me when I was little so you are getting in some deep territory there?

FRED JUNG: I was in the audience.

CHARLES LLOYD: That haunted me. I don't know why that came out. You see, Fred, I don't know what's going to come out. And then you put this Trane thing on me and of course, that was a high compliment. You said something like "all the people from that school" or something. The other thing that you have to understand Fred is that I had schools before him, Prez and Bird and Lady Day and all of that. Of course, Trane, no one did more with the saxophone than he did. Plus, the fact that he brought all this spirituality to it, along with the whole tradition. Of course, Ornette, he was a peer of mine out here. I loved him very much and all the great musicians. I feel blessed.

FJ: Let's start from the beginning.

CHARLES LLOYD: I was born in Memphis, which is a strange place to be born, but what can I say? You choose your parents well or wherever the Creator drops you off. I grew up with music all around me. It was just rich. There was Phineas Newborn, the great pianist. He grabbed me when I was very young. I played on an amateur show when I was about nine and I won first prize. You probably read that somewhere. I tell that all the time, so I am tired of telling it and so I hope you write it down. I was nine and I won first prize and I went into the wings and this kid about seventeen or eighteen grabbed me by the hand and took me around the corner to a wonderful saxophonist coming out of Bird. He just left me there and I was in shock because I just had this huge adulation and my delusions of grandeur got nipped in the bud. What could I do but be a seeker for the rest of my life? First of all, my mom wasn't prepared to have me and be a mother. She was always leaving me on other people's doorsteps. I never felt welcome and I always was a loner and I made a connection with the Creator when I was very young. That helped me to persevere or to get through some of the storm, but music was always what did it for me, giving me inspiration and consolation. All my life, I have been moved so much and nourished that I am just drunk to this day from the hit I got when I was a little kid. I don't know how people function in the modern world because you don't get the music direct. You don't have a culture that encourages the arts and that whole kind of thing. We live in a strange world with education and the lack of. We need sages and such, who have some connection to the higher power or some notion of service, which transcends limited individuality. All those notions get tied up into it along with the sounds. I played with all those blues guys when I was a kid. I've played with B.B. King. I played with Howlin' Wolf, who was as strong as I remember. He would shake the foundations of those little schoolhouses we would play. I come up in that rich tradition of the South, that whole kind of Robert Johnson kind of stuff. So I love that, but I heard Bird when I was very young. Phineas Newborn turned me onto Bird at about nine and when I was about eleven or twelve after some of those saxophone lessons, he put me in his father's van with him, so I got to play with him for two years and shake every night and be in terror of being in the presence of such genius. I was impressed and struck by all of that. Being a Pisces and a dreamer, I want to change the world and make a better world, so we don't have to be loners like me, where we can all rise to our full potential without false impediment and the artist doesn't have to be the low man on the feeding chain. That is kind of abysmal also, the way the businessman has handled things for the artists. It is all about the bread. We didn't do it for that. We loved the music and so that was my tradition that I came from. Charlie Parker, incidentally, was conceived in Memphis. The place of conception is what is most important and so, I come from something that is very rich. Looking back on it now, it was very fortuitous and a beautiful place to be born and all my high school peers and classmates were great musicians. Booker Little was my best friend in high school. He was a young trumpeter that died before your age, Fred. He died at twenty-three in New York. When I first got to New York, I lived with him. He was a wise man at the time. You see, Fred, time doesn't exist and when a man's ready to go, when he has realized, fortunately, it is better to go when you're awake and driving with your headlights on, rather than being asleep. Sleepwalking is not something that I have ever been interested in. I like the fully awoke stage and wake up and realize our true nature, the divinity, which is our birthright, but we have to work through all of the ignorance and hypnosis that we go through in life, forgetting who we really are in the game. The purpose of life is to know God. OK. So with that in the heart, then you find your community. When I came out to California in '56 to go to college at USC (University of Southern California), I went to study and learn all this and know about music and they showed me three hundred years of Europe and that is beautiful. I love J.S. Bach, but I wanted to know about Africa and Asia. I wanted to know about the whole thing and all this rich tradition, Duke Ellington and Bird. They didn't know anything about that stuff and weren't interested in it. I had to go out into the community and find Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry, Billy Higgins, Bobby Hutcherson, Scott LaFaro, there were a lot of great musicians out here at that time. They all eventually, we all, matriculated back to New York. When I was out here, there was a great man named Gerald Wilson, who had a big band and we used to all play in his big band. I was rather fond of him because he was rather charismatic and was very deep coming out of the Duke Ellington tradition. He is also from Memphis. I'm just from that rich, nomadic tradition that happens on the planet. The music is so inspiring and I am still high and drunk from it. Ecstatics have always been the school that has moved my heart so much and so, you have to work hard at your basics. Also, as Booker said to me when I first got to New York and I jumped into the fast lane, he said that we have to work on our character too. Character was something that was very poignant because I was ready to jump into the fast lane, which I did and got run over by the Mac truck. The experience of excess and drugs and such and they were fine at first, but they take their toll. Also, the stresses of fame and living in the world and how one is treated and also, witnessing the lack of humanity and man's inhumanity and indignity and all that stuff. I blew fuses and like all the famous men who had to fall to rise again, I went away. I sound like I'm reading something, but I am not. It is coming through brother, so please pardon me. I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be precocious. It is just coming through, Fred, and so I let it come. So what happens it that I personally and professionally, that is the thing about drugs you see, Fred, it seems like it works and that something is there, but after a while, it is external and you go up and you come down. You can get high, but the problem is that you don't have the wisdom inside. It gives you a glimpse of something, but the point I am trying to get to is that I realized that I would have to go and do the hard work. I was always interested in the hard work and so, in '69, I got off the bus and came back to California and at first, I started out in Malibu and that was a little too close to the city for me and so I moved up the road to Big Sur and lived in a cave at first. Then I had some students and they told me that there was a castle down the road by the sea that some guy didn't live in and the next thing I knew, they placed me there and I lived on this cliff in this incredible glass and cement structure that some crazy architect had built on a piece of rock. So I lived there and worked and worked on my tone, worked on my character, meditated a lot. I didn't get in cars often. I became a vegetarian. I got down to about a hundred and thirty pounds, but I guess some of that was still coming out of the drug days. Pardon me, Fred, that I am not able to be so vertical or linear, but jump around a little, and so I graduated from USC and I was trying to go back to New York. My friends, Ornette and Cherry had left and blew back East. Eric Dolphy left and was playing with Chico Hamilton and he left him to play with Mingus and Buddy Collette called me and said that now it was my turn. Buddy Collette, incidentally, still lives in Los Angeles. He has had a stroke and he is a very beautiful soul. He sacrificed himself for others. He had children. He didn't leave to go to New York because he didn't have a mother there to raise his children. He raised them and like a wise man goes up to a wall, looks over and sees this veil of tears, and he jumps over and goes for the higher reality and one man would look over the wall and turn around and come back to save suffering humanity. Buddy Collette is kind of like that. I know he is the spiritual father of Charlie Mingus. He is the spiritual father of Eric Dolphy and what's that guy's name? He plays flute.

FJ: James Newton.

CHARLES LLOYD: Newton and myself. He's been a beautiful mentor and a beautiful man. The whole tradition has had mentors through the years. Believe it or not, Quincy Jones was a mentor of mine when I was a young kid. He would always tell people about me, Cannonball Adderley, Miles, and all these people would look me up. I was going to school. That was encouraging. So I joined Chico and I moved to New York in 1961 and then in '64, I joined Cannonball Adderley and played with him. Oh, incidentally, in that band with Chico had Gabor Szabo, a wonderful guitarist. Gabor and I had a warm rapport and he came from Hungary. He had Bartok and the gypsies and I turned him onto Coltrane and Ravi Shankar. We made some beautiful records together. With Cannonball, that was a beautiful experience, Joe Zawinul was in the band, Sam Jones, Louie Hayes, Cannonball, his brother, Nat, and when the Beatles came over here in '64, we were the exchange group and we went to London. That is the way that the unions used to work in those days. That was interesting. We played all around over in England. Then in mid-'65, I started my own group and I reformed with Gabor and Pete LaRoca. Oh, when I was with Cannonball, I heard Keith Jarrett up in Boston. He loved my playing and I loved his playing. He was playing upstairs behind a singer in the lounge upstairs. I was playing downstairs with Cannonball and so he would come on his breaks to hear me and I would go up on my breaks to hear him. We had a connection and he wanted to play with me. He was on the road with Art Blakey and he calls me and he wanted to play with me and I was on the road with Gabor and I said when I get back to New York, we would get together. And so we got together and that band was history, Cecil McBee, Jack DeJohnette, we broke a lot of ground. We made a lot of beautiful music. We were invited to play the Fillmore and that is history. There was a group called the Community Theater. They are like Belushi with Second City. They loved my music. They used to come hear me every night in San Francisco when I was on tour. They said that they were not so much into jazz and as a matter of fact, they didn't like it, but they liked us. They thought our jazz was so great. They said that there was this place called the Fillmore and would we consider playing there. I said that I didn't know. What was it and they said that it was a couple of thousand kids laying on the floor, stoned, and listening to music. I said that sounded interesting and who plays there and they said, "Muddy Waters," and I said, "Oh, that is my stuff." We went over there on a Sunday afternoon. We were supposed to play for a half hour and they wouldn't let us off the stage for an hour and a half. Graham started booking us and the Grateful Dead was always coming around and wanting to play with us. We had a record out called Dream Weaver and that was the Grateful Dead's favorite record. They were playing folk, kind of blues and stuff like that, but when they heard us having so much fun improvising, they started stretching out. They started trying to get on all of our shows and get us to play on all their shows with them, as did the Airplane (Jefferson Airplane), as did a lot of groups around San Francisco. We had a lot of fun. Jimi Hendrix was a great friend. He lived down the street from me and played down the street from me when I lived in the Village in New York on West 3rd Street. I had a loft over there. The Village was fun in the Sixties. Ornette Coleman lived there and always visited me. Don Cherry, Eric Dolphy, Bob Dylan lived around the corner. The Sixties were beautiful because we were all hoping for a better world and dreaming for that and I'm still do that, but as I said, I had to regroup and the regrouping Big Sur, I just lived a very simple life, simple living and high thinking. My nearest neighbor was a mile and a half on either side. I stayed in silence a lot. It was very painful also because when you struggle with yourself, it is not easy to face all the demons. I began to have glimpses and then the little guy, Petrucciani showed up there unsolicited and at the time he showed up, I was reading an esoteric, ancient text and this little guys showed up with a bent frame and so the elders were mentoring me when I was a kid, so I took them around the world for a couple of years and got him started and then I went back to Big Sur. I had a near death experience. That happened around '86. I had to have some emergency surgery and turn over the plumbing. Fortunately, the doctor said that I was eleven hours from being out of here, but if God wants to save you, no man can take you. I have had many examples throughout my life where the Creator has saved me from the abyss. I dedicated myself to this indigenous, beautiful tradition that we have and picked myself up and dusted off and rededicated myself to the tradition of service. Then I put together the band with Bobo Stenson and we made some beautiful records. The first one on ECM to come out of all that silence of Big Sur was Fish Out of Water, which was very poignant and very beautiful. The people at ECM have always been very loving and open and supportive of me and caring and that was a different kind of tradition than I had experienced in the American corporate structure. At least they were open to a dialogue. We've made seven records now. There were others, The Call, Notes From Big Sur, All My Relations, dedicated to Mandela. I'm always moved by these examples of people who overcome obstacles and stuff like that and he is certainly one of those for the world. I'm way beyond the dialectics of race and all that. Of course, I have got so many of those coursing through my veins anyway. I think it is time for the world to get on and America needs to get off its cancer of racism. But that exists throughout the world in various places and forms. I don't know what to say about any of this stuff, the Middle East and all of that, but it saddens me that we can't all live together and honor and respect. I just know that it starts with each individual. If each one of us can water our roots and be respectful of our fellow human beings and also to make sure that you stand up for truth and love and don't go down with the ship of the perpetuation of ignorance. We all seeking the highest whether we know it or not and that is the beautiful thing that this music has taught me. I have just had all these glimpses that have taught me that there is something and that we have spirit and we have bodies and they are our temples and we have to respect them. The greatest thing that I have learned in this life is of service. So all those years that I went away, I began to work more and more on my sound and my character as Booker said. It is interesting, the more I worked on my character, the more it would influence my sound. The drugs and stuff, I used to never talk about it, Fred. I'm only talking to you about it now because it just came out recently. Someone was doing some radio stuff with me and they played a lot of music from the Fillmore and some other things that I had done and I heard the drugs. It unleashed something. What I am getting at, Fred, is that I don't talk about that now because it is so far away from me, but at the same time, life is school and we should all serve each other and I am by no means a perfect person. I am still capable of slipping on a banana peel at any moment, but I always pick myself up and get back in there. I learned that from watching my heroes and all the strength and dignity, all these great musicians and the character that they had. I look upon them all as saints. Want me pause for a minute, Fred? Should I keep going or do you want to ask me questions?

FJ: Please don't let me interrupt.

CHARLES LLOYD: Let me just get a little further then, because I had a few questions to ask you. Well, anyway, so the thing is that Herbie (Herbie Hancock) used to play a lot with me around New York. There are some recordings that I made with Ron Carter and Tony Williams and a lot of different people. I also played with an African drummer in New York. I played with Roy Haynes. He was on my first record. Anyway, they took us upstate and it was huge, vast grounds and they gave us acid in the early Sixties. I never had anything like that and it unleashed the cadet in me and Mingus was up there. They had a love of creative musicians and they had gourmet cooks and stuff like that. It was interesting to take some little holidays up there every now and then. Jimi Hendrix and I would be up there in San Francisco and the Dead would give us tons of pills. They would give us these pills and I would take two or three of them and Jimi would take fifteen of them at once. Jimi had another kind of constitution, a very sweet, and generous, and gentle man, but he is someone also that is very touching to me. I played with all those blues guys, but he was the personification of taking that to another whole thing. When you think of rock and roll, Eric Clapton, forget it, because Jimi was, don't get me wrong, I like Eric Clapton. I like music and when you like music, you like a lot of things. I still come from the school of those blues men that I told you about and of course, I like Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding and all that kind of stuff too. I also love Caruso and Jessye Norman and just all kinds of stuff. When I went to college, I was drawn to Bartok at USC. But again, the narrow focus over there made me find my peers in the streets and I was happy to find all of that, but moving around with this stuff, I basically realized that I had to get the high, get the drugs inside and when you get them inside, then you have a stability, the get high station. I would put my horn to my mouth and I would go to the zone because I had done the work and because my sincerity about it and love of it, the creator comes and meets me and then he gives it to me. So when you hear me playing at my finest, that is definitely coming from a higher power. I live in awe of that and in respect and I am not here for just sense enjoyment. Sense enjoyment, that is something that hypnotizes the world and so when you wake up to what's going on and you find out how the thing works, then the spiritual thing is something. I am shocked and I am a late bloomer that I am still around and growing, growing whole. I don't have any lyrics for it. It is beyond lyrics. I'm very blessed and also, to have the situation of having a devoted soul in my wife, who makes an incredible nest for me and makes it so I can do my work and I don't have to deal with a lot of other kinds of basics. She is an artist herself. I'm hoping one day to free her up to get back to her art. Right now, she is helping to keep me standing upright, rather than drooling at the mouth and crawling around the lawn on all fours. I'm mostly found in the music. I'm always nervous before I play because I don't have the ability to do what I do, meaning that I work on the music, but what I want is something fresh. I want some territory that hasn't been explored and you can hear my lineage and I hope that you hear more than Trane, Fred. I hope you also hear the tender Prez and Bird and maybe Day and the whole thing, J.S. Bach and all of that stuff influences me and what do you call it, world music, I was always interested in the whole thing. Basically, Fred, I don't know what to say other than that I think young people should focus on quality and not get inundated with jumping around into the life of the senses because at a certain point, if you do the work, you can rise. You see, Fred, everybody can understand what's going on on their level and the levels below them, but there is some other stuff that we don't understand that is above us, but if you put in the work, you will get glimpses of that and you will also rise up, so it depends. I'm not trying to preach anything here. I'm just trying to say that I am just a deep seeker and I think that some people out there may be interested in that and if so, there's examples that have come through here with that kind of wisdom and knowledge. I have studied all the traditions and I don't want to expound and say that only one watch keeps perfect time. If the devotee is sincere, all paths are true. I know that this sounds strange to you, Fred, that I am hooking up all of this to the music, or maybe it doesn't sound strange to you. I hope it doesn't, but I found that working on my character, informed my sound and the content of what I was able to hear and what I was able to play. It took me to another kind of place. All those days and nights of sitting at the feet of all those great masters in New York and in Memphis and everywhere, it all comes to fruition. So when I go around the world now, people lay out the magic carpet, but it is not for me. It is for the whole thing. I know and understand that it is just not about me. I've always had a group notion. I like the continuity. I like the idea of a group of men working together or women or whoever. Coherency can be brought to the floor and you can go deeper. So I kind of like to surround myself with people like that and over the years, that group I had with all those stuff that we made on ECM earlier. The latest stuff is the stuff that I remember best. I don't remember so much about things I did in the past. I just heard those Atlantic ones for the first time, recently, in a long time and I was bowled over by how great we were as young men, how great that music was. There is a video, my wife, who is also a filmmaker, she made a video on me and in there, there is a segment she puts in there of me when I was playing with Cannonball in London in that period I am telling you about and there I was twenty-five, twenty-six years old and the quality that was coming through the instrument, to this day, is very uplifting and very touching, so I am still trying to go deeper. I am also interested in simplicity now. I am not trying to prove anything anymore or to smash the atom. Bird discovered the atom and Trane smashed it. But there were all those people and the shoulders that they stood on. Mr. Hawkins (Coleman Hawkins), I used to sit backstage in the Vanguard on beer kegs and sit at the feet of Coleman Hawkins and he would just tune me with his glance and the wise ones can do that and being around Monk and Mingus, Trane and Miles and Duke Ellington, I was in the south of France for a week with Duke Ellington and his orchestra and these great men. I was there with my quartet and we played. The wonderful Mr. Hodges and they took me to the gravesite of Sidney Bechet, the great Sidney Bechet. Duke said that if I kept stirring up the soup, one day I would have something. It is just such a rich tradition and so beautiful, Fred, that I don't even look back and I don't, in no way, feel tired, nor do I tap dance to any kind of buffoonery or any kind of music business stupidity. I am just still dreaming for a better world and trying to make some kind of a little contribution to it. As for Higgins (Billy Higgins), he and I go back to when I was eighteen. I have been playing with him for a long time and when I made the record Canto, Manfred (Manfred Eicher), from ECM, he came to me and said when we were having dinner in a restaurant and we had done this beautiful record, Canto, dedicated to Billy and he asked if I would do a special project with him and that really knocked me out, because Billy and I are very close. We had done a record earlier on Atlantic with Cedar Walton and Buster Williams and we had come together during that time. I think that was around '92 or something. Higgins has been through a lot too and there were many years when we didn't see each other. So we both came through a lot and so we have a little story to tell. We get together now and we're dedicated to each other and whenever we can, we tour and he tours a lot with me. We are leaving Monday for France. Imagine this, Fred. I've played, in the last calendar year, I have played four huge, sold-out concerts in Paris alone and that doesn't exist in my home country and I don't understand that. I have played your town, Los Angeles, the last time I played there, I don't know when it was, a year ago maybe. So I have some invitations to play down there I guess. I will be playing there at the new Knitting Factory because those people are always sweet to me when I am in New York. I have played for them two years in a row, the Bell Atlantic Festival that they have. The people are always very respectful and very honored that I come to play and they lay out the carpet for me. Let me back off of that. I don't mean to be harsh about our country, but when you have a President whose favorite saxophone player is that Kenny G guy. You are what you eat or something like that. Getting back to food, I still like barbeque sauce. I put it on my corn now. I don't mess with those animals and stuff. They have got families and stuff too. I was ill from smoking second hand smoke from cigarettes when I was a kid so I can't play in smoke environments and I hope people who smoke have a lot of insurance. I had two or three throat surgeries from second hand smoke and I never had the urge to smoke. Bob Marley was also somebody that I felt a deep kinship with. In those years of solitude, I was really informed with glimpses that really encouraged me and so I am still hoping that we can have a better world. The interesting about this country, Fred, was that before people came over here, the indigenous people lived here, there is still something of the notion of the melting pot and we should always rise to the highest and so I have got these ideals and things, so anyway, getting back to Higgins, I played with Gabor and he influenced Abercrombie a lot. I tried Abercrombie out in New York at Birdland, two or three years ago and I liked him a lot, especially when he told me that he was raised up on my stuff and how Gabor had influenced him. So we played and it was love at first sight of whatever. Dave Holland and I had done some touring together and he is someone that is very strong, a wonderful musician and he loves Higgins and so I invited Dave. He and I were supposed to do a trio tour together in the Middle East and Higgins was waiting for a liver transplant and so he couldn't go and so Dave and I went with Idris Muhammad. We were all excited about making this recording and everybody played so beautifully and served so wonderfully on it. It was effortless. It was a great joy. Manfred Eicher is a very interesting guy and a special guy and he, himself, is a true artist and loves quality in music and it has been interesting for me to be with a company where I could develop and do my stuff over a period of time and not be ejected out into the streets again next to the teenage wonders or whatever the system likes to parade around. It has been interesting and we continue to do some good work. That record came out and it was very well received in Europe. It did extremely well and in Japan. In America, we got caught in the crossfire hurricane of ECM leaving BMG and going back to Universal, going back to Polygram and I didn't get the proper, not all the people could get to know it and that is another thing, Fred, you do the music and it is great when you can live on both levels, where artistically, you can be happy and they (record company) can rise to its full potential and the people can get to know about the music. That one got lost in the shuffle in America and so hopefully, people get to find out about that. So after that, I decided that I wanted to make the next record a special offering to the world of all the stuff that I am talking to you about it, I decided I wanted to offer some straight forward simplicity to the world with depth and tenderness and a caress and so I had a lot of ballads and little things that I was playing around with at home and my wife would listen and then one day, she brought me a piece of music out of the blue. She rarely ever does that and it was "The Water Is Wide" and I played it on the piano and played it on my instrument and I was very touched. The sentiment of getting to the other shore was very touching for us all because you can't jump across there. And so I started working on a lot of pieces here at home and had lots of music and I'm very intense when I get to work. I just go and I can't stop and so I had a lot of music. I had an objective, which was, I wanted to record in Los Angeles. I hadn't recorded in Los Angeles ever, well, not ever, but I can't remember when. But my reason was because Billy Higgins lives in Los Angeles and also he and I had been talking about nuance so much because he is the nuance master. He wanted to play his own drums. When all these great guys record, often times, the drum set are provided for them, probably for their specifications, but is not their personal instrument that they caress and touch. So I wanted to record in LA because Higgins could have his instrument and he could have the support system. He could go to the mosque during the day if he wanted to or whatever. We could do a flexible kind of schedule because I am not a taskmaster. I'm intense. Stuff like that, I respect. He is a very spiritual man at this time in his life too. Fortunately for me, Fred, as a young man, I was able to put the six-shooter away while it was still hot. I think it gave me a second wind in a certain kind of way. Now, I am a junior elder or something, but I don't really feel it. I still feel like a teenager, Fred. I play tennis, swim under water, hike in the mountains, and stuff like that and I am pretty quick. I can get around and matriculate and stuff like that. I do some service that will hopefully will make a big contribution. So anyway, I wanted to record in LA and I wanted to get the best sounds possible and so I had to find a studio and I have got these audiophile friends, so one of them, Joe Harley (producer for Bennie Wallace), had a company AudioQuest and he also was a music lover and a big fan of my music. Joe was very helpful. I asked him to help me get the right studio and the engineer and stuff. We went in there and he got a beautiful engineer for us and so Harley was my soundman and cables. He brought those esoteric cables, the stuff that is like dope. He brought that stuff in and old microphones and we did it analog. That is why it sounds so tender and warm. Of course, I am just saying that. You haven't told me that yet. So I had all these great musicians and what I wanted to do was make a simple offering. Brad had played with me. Do you hear Brad play with me, Fred, down at the MOCA concerts?

FJ: I was there the first year.

CHARLES LLOYD: Yeah, and so we played there two years in a row and I invited Brad to record with me. Of course, he is very busy with his own trio and stuff now and so we never could find the time for it. Incidentally, this is not an on going group or anything. It is an offering that I wanted to make. I wanted to make it like Hitchcock or Frank Capra or in the deep tradition. I don't mean to bring up dead people, but if you love art, you love a lot of things. So what happened was that we could never get the schedule together. Higgins' health got funny for a while and it took us a year to get a schedule together. When we finally got it together, Manfred couldn't come over here to record. So that is another beautiful thing, Fred. He had to trust. So Dorothy and I produced the record and we did it with the utmost love and quality and care and of course, it was very expensive because it was analog and all, but that is irrelevant. But the thing is, Fred, I just wanted the sound as fine as it could. I had some requirements. I told Harley that we had to make sure that we had to catch all of Higgins' nuances. You can even hear him smiling on there, Fred. Brad, for me, people had been telling me about him. Someone sent me one of his Vanguard recordings and I heard his touch and I knew that he could sing with me and dance with me. I invited him to record. I knew that I was going to have Higgins and I wanted to keep Abercrombie in the picture. So I asked Brad who he would feel comfortable on bass and naturally, he said Larry. And Manfred was very in tune with that because he knew that those two knew each other. So we kind of laid it out like that because those two would be comfortable with each other. I am a madman in the studio. I go non-stop. With these great people, I also knew that, I couldn't even sleep. I don't sleep anyway, but the whole week I couldn't sleep because I had a lot that I wanted to say, but at the same time, I wanted simplicity. I am kind of focused as you can see, Fred. The stuff doesn't sound all over the place to you, does it? So anyway, I was focused, but being focused, I also wanted to leave room for the air and the magic to come through. Higgins provided the magic carpet for us and he has elevated his instrument to play what it is, when it is, so like that and the Buddha and the whole tradition of masters, those guys influenced me and touched me a lot. So that whole tradition of spiritual blessings was there for us and I prayed long and hard before this recording and hopeful that it would be blessed and then I would get out of the way and do the best that I could and give it every ounce of whatever I have and had and whatever I've given and whatever I could do with that. So we went in and we all got together and it was a beautiful thing for me. I sure love the musicians and how they served. What I didn't say earlier and what I want to say now, if you will let me, Fred.

FJ: The podium is yours.

CHARLES LLOYD: What I will say now is that I have always wanted the whole group, where the whole thing sounds beautiful, not just me as a soloist and a rhythm section because I have to listen to these other people. I want to love it. And I still like to get high and I can't get higher than having people who are there and have done the work for that and so it is in the music. The high now is a spiritual high and it is a high that has sustaining power because it is supported by the most high and when the most high graces you, nothing else can match with that. I feel very blessed by that and also that I can live in my lifetime with my creativity and I'm just a lucky guy.

FJ: You seem at peace with yourself now.

CHARLES LLOYD: Yes, sir, because I looked into the abyss and I looked at all the variables and all the options, what is out there and what is available and rather than going out there and doing all this reckless research, I don't have any reckless disregard for my well-being to go out there and step on every banana peel. I am interested in having sustenance and support for my people and my musicians. I like to serve it on a high quality level because the travel and the wear and tear of all that can be a bit much, Fred. Those tollbooths, I don't welcome, but for the couple of hours we get to make music, my heart is filled with that. We did so much music that there is some other stuff that is got some serious tempos on it too, up tempos, but that seemed to be a problem for the record company with marketing and stuff to have a double CD, so I am going to bring it out and break it up into two parts. Did you get the new recording?

FJ: I did.

CHARLES LLOYD: So talk to me, Fred. What are you hearing? Was it what you thought you'd hear? Can you relate? Or can you work with this?

FJ: Compared to the outings that you did for Atlantic in your past life, your ECM sessions are more mature.

CHARLES LLOYD: Well, so much more depth too. And as a young man, I knew too much. I don't know anything anymore. In my case, youth was wasted on the young. This whole life is a paradox, a contradiction. Here I am, the most radiant time, when he gives it to me and I don't have to go to no crutches to get it. I just go directly to the source and he gives it to me because he knows that I have to have it and I have paid the price, am paying the price, and will pay the price. I am talking about the man, the real man, of the mother, the mother of the universe. And then I have all these beautiful examples, being around Thelonious Monk and Miles and Trane, Duke and Ornette and stuff. I met Jessye Norman and she said that she was going to tell everyone that she met Charles Lloyd and I like opera. She did the Four Last Songs of Strauss and Wagner and again, as I said, I like music. So talk to me, Fred. What questions do you have?

FJ: That you haven't answered already. You went to my alma mater.

CHARLES LLOYD: When did you go?

FJ: My graduating year was in the Nineties.

CHARLES LLOYD: I graduated in 1960 (laughing). You got that. I was in the school of music. I faked my parents out. They thought I was going to med school or something. Mothers want you to be a doctor, lawyer, or Indian chief. I had the Indian chief thing down because it is my tradition. That whole tradition, I have got. Get this, Fred. I started in '56. Did you know I went to every summer session? I never left there. I went to the six week summer session. I went to the four week summer session. And then I would do the fall and the spring and I would do the summers and repeat the whole thing. Of course, I didn't have a home to go back to and I wasn't going back to Memphis because I couldn't stand all that humidity and racism and stuff. Not that that doesn't exist in Southern California cops and all that. Did you read that book, Central Avenue Sounds?

FJ: I did.

CHARLES LLOYD: Did you see what they said about cops and how brutal they were? These Southern crackers would come out there and do this nonsense. Here is the thing, Fred. It is so repugnant and so stupid, the manipulation of one man stepping over another man to get over or to do something or just the whole toxicity of racism is just beneath any dignity or station. That is when I graduated. I have got a masters waiting for me somewhere, but I just never went back because what I was finding in the streets was just so much more enthralling.

FJ: Do you credit your self-imposed exile to saving not only your career, but your life as well?

CHARLES LLOYD: Absolutely, Fred. I was blessed to get off the bus because I had to go into the woods. I have always drawn a lot on nature. You see, Fred, everything was going so fast and the thing about name and fame is fame is like a plum that is a big, juicy thing and you bite into it and you break your teeth off because it is all pit and skin. In a way, fame is like that. We were young men and I didn't have no stuff like that well. I wasn't interested in being a packaged product. I wanted to let creativity flow. I come from the tradition of wild ones, who sang from the trees and ate roots and they are not housebroken. I didn't want to be housebroken. I like something about comforts, but after I checked out all of the excess and had all the room service that they had, all those girls lined up and fighting each other to get to us, after a while, if you don't learn something from some of that and find out what is going on, then you are doomed to repeat that and you lose sight of the holy grail and I always like to keep the holy grail way up there. It is like a carrot on a stick. So when the world's pull fell away from me, I learned that as a young man. I had all those women. Most of them were laying on the bed. I was in the bathroom getting high. I don't know, Fred. I just know that I like that the Lord let me have another chance at it. That is a beautiful thing and look at Higgins, Fred. He has given him another chance. I went around the world and started every concert with a prayer for Higgins. He was waiting for his liver transplant and sure enough, the creator sent him back to us. The other thing is, when I finished the recording and everybody had gone home, I kept Abercrombie there and I played a little prayer thanking the creator for Higgins and that is that little prayer at the end of the record. I don't want to bother people about that too much. You cannot believe in that and all that, but trust me, Fred. Trust me, Fred, there is something behind all of it.

FJ: Do you feel that power and presence every night you step on the bandstand?

CHARLES LLOYD: Well, let me just say this, Fred. Every time I play, it is the first time and I am always, all I can tell you is that something is going on now that I didn't have as a young man. It flows. It always flows.

Fred Jung is Jazz Weekly's Editor-In-Chief and doesn't watch the WB. Comments?  Email Fred.