The Atlantic

The Re-Flowering: Charles Lloyd's Second Golden Age

The jazz saxophonist went from 1960s pop stardom to years of self-imposed exile, but he’s now producing some of the best music of his career.
Source: D. Darr

When Charles Lloyd was 22, he quit a stable job teaching school in Los Angeles, dropped out of graduate school, and came to New York to try to make it as a working musician. Lloyd sometimes went to see the tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins playing at the Village Vanguard, which was then, as now, the center of the jazz world. After a set, Lloyd could make his way through the dimly lit halls of the club, past the men’s room, to the dressing room, where Hawkins would be sitting and sipping scotch. The younger musician viewed the older man as a guru, a deity.

But Hawkins was an ailing god. Though he was barely in his mid-fifties then, Hawk’s salad days—his glorious tenure with Fletcher Henderson, his epochal recording of “Body and Soul”—were past him. Within a few years, he would be dead at 64, a casualty of too many scotches. Hawkins sounded beautiful but looked rough.

“I said to myself, this is a young man’s music,” Lloyd recalled. “I said, I hope that I won't have a saxophone in my mouth when I get that age.”

When Lloyd told me this story this spring, he did so fully aware of the irony of that earlier statement. Once a young man in a hurry in the jazz world, Lloyd now finds himself an old man with a saxophone still in his mouth. At 78, he has a patience and openness and discipline rare in a human being of any age; he is also, at the moment, in the midst

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