All compositions by Charles Lloyd. recorded July 1994, Rainbow Studio, Oslo
This CD by the Charles Lloyd Quartet avoids fitting into any of the stereotypes that one might have about ECM's recordings. Pianist Bobo Stenson has carved his own identity out of the styles of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, drummer Billy Hart is stimulating in support and Anders Jormin provides a walking bass on many of the tracks; a rarity for ECM sessions. As one might expect, the main focus is on Charles Lloyd whose playing during the past decade has been some of the finest of his career. He mostly sticks to tenor (just playing flute on "Little Peace" and Chinese oboe on the very brief "Milarepa"), and although traces of John Coltrane's sound will always be in his tone, Lloyd comes up with quite a few original ideas. He is best on "Thelonious Theonlyus" (which has a slight calypso feel to it), the episodic "Cape to Cairo Suite" (a tribute to Nelson Mandela), a long tenor/drums duet on "All My Relations" (which is a mix between "Chasin' the 'Trane" and "Bessie's Blues") and the brooding spiritual "Hymne to the Mother." A strong effort.
- Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
========= from the cover ==========
At three I wanted to play the saxophone, but my folks wouldn't get me one, so, I began to sing "That's My Desire" and other popular songs. I wanted to sing love songs and make the girls cry like Bullmoose Jackson and Mr. B. All the bands would come to Memphis and play the theaters, alternating with Hollywood movies, and occasionally Chocolate Cowboys like Herb Jeffries, they played from morning 'til midnight. Duke's Band, Basie, Hamp, Nat King Cole, Lucky Millinder, Dizzy, Ella, Sarah, Dinah, Mr. B., Satchmo, Ray Charles, Louis Jordan, Earl Bostic, and all the Rhythm and Blues bands. Willie Mitchell had this big band locally, playing very modern, like Dizzy's Big Band. My father told me about Jimmy Lunceford and all the greats of earlier times.
We had a large house and hotels were few for these great artists. A friend of my mother convinced her to rent a few rooms to the musicians. I was closest to Hamp's band since he used to stay at our house. He had so many great musicians... Clifford Brown, Quincy Jones, Jimmy Cleveland, Al Grey, Jerome Richardson, Batman, Little Jimmy Scott, Winnie Brown, and many others. Of course, being a very thin young kid, Quincy and I had a special vibe with our Mr. B. collars on.
So, Memphis was very hip, musically, and I wasn't much of a singer. Billie Holiday had become my singer. By then, I was completely under the spell of her melancholy tones, it was my turn to cry. I wanted to marry her and protect her, but I was too young. Finally, when I was nine, my parents gave in and I got a sax. I went crazy with joy. I played it everywhere, even in the bath tub, couldn't put it down. Late at night, I would listen to Bird on the radio and soar through the air with him. I would dream to play like him. His music was so complete and full of wonder. As a lonely boy, this was the simpatico I had been looking for, he set me free. It was a spiritual experience which touched my soul and filled me with inspiration. He was the first modern ecstatic I had heard, but the singer was forever in my heart, so now, I would have to sing through the saxophone. It was like Bird had discovered the atom, boundaries were shattered. (Did you know that Bird was conceived in Memphis and his folks moved to K.C. where he was born?). During this time, neither Bird or Lady Day ever performed in Memphis, but through recordings and late night radio, they spoke to me. There was a message in both these artists' work that awakened the seeker in me and set my direction early on.
With Hamp and some of his musicians staying in our house, I was in heaven, but disturbed their sleep no end with my horn. Waiting for them to get up was my mission. Hamp was very wonderful, he once told my mother to get me a Selmer alto (the best) because a professional needed one. I, as an amateur, needed one all the more. He also told her to start me on the clarinet for a strong foundation. My mother would take me backstage and all the musicians would say to her, "Make him be a doctor or lawyer, this music is no life for him." No one could discourage me, though, for awhile, I told her I was going to be a doctor - she knew better. These musicians were the finest most dedicated people. They were my saints and sages. Hamp was always reading his Bible and being quiet. Joe Liggins, The Honeydripper', would write out "Teardrops" for me off the record on first hearing. It was when giants roamed the earth. I felt a part of a larger family.
I began to meet all the local musicians. Phineas Newborn became my mentor, he was such a great pianist. I would stand outside his house and shake from such genius conning through the screen door and windows. I'd ride my bike everywhere to hear cats play and practise. Phineas first heard me when I was playing on an amateur show at the Palace. I was ten and had won first prize. He was in the wings and had heard all that applause. He stopped me in my tracks and said "You need lessons bad!" So, I was saved from early delusion. He took me to Mitchell's Hotel around the corner at Beale Street and Hernando, knocked on Irvin Reason's door and said "He needs lessons," and left. That was very painful at first (for my bruised little ego), but so sweet later on. Time for discipline, long tones, scales, sight reading, listening to Irvin, etc. Irvin was conning out of Bird and he played in Bill Harvey's great band at Mitchell's Hotel. It was awesome to hear them, music was everywhere.
I began working gigs with Blues cats, Roscoe Gordon (Bobby Blue Bland was in his band), B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Ace. On my first gig with Roscoe Gordon, we all piled into a beat up station wagon, crossed the bridge over the great, wide, mighty Mississippi to Arkansas. The gig was at a school house in Helena, Arkansas. I sat in the very back of the station wagon, mismatched blue suit and all. On the way there, Bobby Blue Band said to me, "Junior, you can mess up on any song you want, but if you mess up on "Peaches" I'm goin' to whip your ass. "Peaches" is my theme song." I was scared all night, he was such a big man. During the intermission at midnight I ran to the station wagon to hide until the next set. Bobby came out looking for me and found me in the car. I trembled as he reached for me. But he hugged me and said, "Junior, ain't nobody played "Peaches" as good as you played it tonight." To this day, I still don't know which song was "Peaches", but I love it when I can sing my song.
All my relations, let me sing to you.
-Charles Lloyd (October 1994)