If you ask saxophonist Charles Lloyd about his career in music, he'd start many decades ago, in the Memphis where he grew up and the Mississippi of his grandfather's farm. The South is where he absorbed the blues, picked up a saxophone and met the all-time great musicians who would shape his future course.
By the time he was 30, Lloyd was one of the world's most popular jazz musicians, playing rock halls and sports arenas the world over. But the music business, and its attendant vices, wore him down. Lloyd moved from New York to California's Central Coast and for the better part of the next decade, recorded and performed sparingly (his work with The Beach Boys proving a notable exception).
Thankfully for us, Lloyd's retreat wasn't permanent. In fact, he's seemingly come back more spiritually and purposefully charged, as evidenced by a long string of albums for the ECM label. He celebrates his 75th birthday tonight in a special concert with his working quartet and iconic Greek singer Maria Farantouri. It's coming on the heels of Hagar's Song, a new duet album with his band's pianist, Jason Moran.
In his 75 years, Charles Lloyd has developed a reputation as an earthy, sincere voice. Here are five songs that illustrate his depth of sound, from early breakthroughs to his current band.