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On March 15, 2018, Charles Lloyd celebrated his 80th birthday with an epic yet intimate concert at the historic, adobe-brick Lobero Theatre near his home in Santa Barbara, California. The Memphis-born saxophonist, flutist and composer marked his eighth decade by performing songs from throughout his era-spanning discography, accompanied by his quintet, guest organist Booker T. Jones and guest bassist Don Was. Alternately sublime and meditative, raucous and bluesy, the music was captured on 8, Kindred Spirits, Live From The Lobero (Blue Note), a Valentine’s Day release that’s available in a deluxe box set or in standard CD and LP versions.
Observing this milestone at the Lobero, a venue he’s played more than any other, was fitting. “I love adobe and its connection to the Earth and the sun,” Lloyd explains via email. “Cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The earthen walls retain the vibrations of all the greats who have performed in this space. It is an extension of my living room and family. The crown jewel for me is the fact that Marian Anderson performed there on February 14, 1940. It is a beautiful, soulful edifice.”
Lloyd expanded his musical family for the concert, adding guitarist Julian Lage to his rhythm section of pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland. Blue Note label chief Was took over bass duties on a couple of tracks, and fellow Memphian Jones lent his sinewy organ sound to several songs, including a version of his Booker T. and the MG’s hit “Green Onions.” Lloyd was boyhood friends with original MG’s bassist Lewis Steinberg, whose four-note introduction renders “Green Onions” immediately recognizable. “I was proud of him for setting off ‘Green Onions’ with such distinction,” he says. “I hadn’t known Booker T. before I left Memphis, but through ‘Green Onions,’ he soon became known to me and the rest of the world. I was also proud that one of my home boys had a big hit.”
Lloyd revisits music from his earliest recordings, as well, including an extensive exploration of “Dream Weaver,” a cosmic diptych he’s returned to frequently since its inception more than 50 years ago. “‘Dream Weaver’ has two sections, ‘Meditation’ and ‘Dervish Dance,’” he says. “Reflecting the ebb and flow of life, these are constantly expanding and contracting. With each performance, this composition does the same, always ending with an ecstatic dance.”
Traditional song also resonates deeply with Lloyd. He offers heartfelt renditions of three folk and gospel numbers that have informed his music and moved him over the years. “I was introduced to ‘La Llorona’ through a [cancion singer] Chavela Vargas recording,” he relates. “Between the lyrics and her rendition of the song, it tore at my heart and brought tears. ‘Abide With Me’ is a hymn, and ‘Shenandoah’ has hymn-like qualities that I love; they are both threads in the fabric of the American songbook. I like to roll along her rivers.” —Bob Weinberg