Hot Sounds of the Summer

Jazz Preview for July & August 2008

Columns | Jean-Pascal Vachon | July / August 2008

Jazz saxaphone player Charles Lloyd (Photo: Courtesy of the artist)

While most of our favorite jazz venues are now closed for summer, jazz fans mustn’t put their passion to a rest. A whole new scene has developed over the last few decades – in Europe as well as in North America: This is the jazz festivals.

In France for instance, some tiny towns become for a few days an annex to Birdland, the Village Vanguard or the Knitting Factory, and present well-established stars and young musicians on the rise in a display of stylistic diversity. Vienna too has a festival, on top of its quite lively jazz scene the rest of the year. Even though promotion is rather low-key, more than 40 concerts are to be performed between June 27 and July 17, in more than a dozen venues all over town. [For a full schedule, see]

But rather than a list of "yes," "definitely yes" and "why not," let’s concentrate on one very special concert taking place at the Staatsoper on Independence Day, July 4.

Not many musicians can boast about having two highly successful careers in one lifetime separated by a twenty year hiatus. And not many musicians can boast of having shared the stage with Jimi Hendrix, the Jefferson Airplane and the Beach Boys, influenced the Grateful Dead and The Band, on top of having band members of the caliber of Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, Michel Petrucciani, Bobo Stenson, Brad Mehldau, John Abercrombie, Geri Allen, Billy Higgins and Jason Moran.

Well, except Charles Lloyd, a 70-year young multi-instrumentalist with African, Cherokee, Mongolian and Irish roots. He was one of the most popular jazzmen of the 1960s with his mix of free jazz, folk and mysticism and was the first ever non-pop artist to perform at San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore Hall, the haven of psychedelic music and counterculture on the West coast.

I realize that I just used the dreaded "f-word" ("free"). Have no worries: instead of the abrasiveness and anger we normally associate with this style, Lloyd’s music is pure peace and love – which was surely why he was so popular, both with the jazz purists and the flower children, during that extraordinary time.

Then in 1969, at the height of his popularity, Lloyd more or less retired from music, playing only an occasional gig here and there (among others with the Beach Boys with whom he shared an interest for transcendental meditation), and settled in Big Sur in California to practice meditation, yoga and reorganize his private life.

At the end of the eighties, though, he went back to the studios and began recording for ECM, the German label famous for its ethereal soundscape: Now he was an elder statesman of jazz with la crème de la crème of today’s jazz scene. Each album, a dozen so far, has been greeted with unanimous acclaim, both from fans and critics. The reasons?  Lloyd’s music is deeply rooted in jazz and even blues and also includes elements of oriental. Most importantly though, it covers the entire spectrum of emotions yet remains profoundly accessible and lyrical. And don’t forget its sincerity: Lloyd doesn’t play music, he talks in music.

"I want some territory that hasn’t been explored" he said in a recent interview. "You can hear my lineage, and I hope that you hear more than Trane [John Coltrane]. I hope you also hear the tender Prez [Lester Young] and Bird [Charlie Parker] and maybe Day [Billie Holiday] and the whole thing, J. S. Bach and all of that stuff influence me. And that, what do you call it? World music. I was always interested in the whole thing."

On July 4, he will perform with his regular ensemble: The young, fiery, very talented and very individual Jason Moran on piano, and this effective tandem of Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums, who played in Vienna last February with the SFJazz Collective. This relatively recent edition of the Charles Lloyd Quartet once again displays its leader’s knack of putting together young and stimulating musicians, perhaps the best he’s ever had judging by his latest album, Rabo de Nube, which contains some of the most compelling music ever recorded by Lloyd.

"Every time I play, it is the first time," he said in the interview, "and 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."

That same evening, pianist Abdullah Ibrahim will also perform solo. In the "Not to be missed" category: tenor sax master Chico Freeman accompanied by the Fritz Pauer trio (1 to 3 July, Jazzland, 9 PM), British singer Norma Winstone with pianist Glauco Venier and reedist Klaus Gesing (7 July, 9 PM, Porgy and Bess), and larger-than-life, soul-legend Solomon Burke (11 July, 9 PM, Arkadenhof Rathaus).

And in the category "this ain’t no jazz, but good music is good music" (inevitable in every jazz festival), Lou Reed’s rock opera Berlin at Gasometer on July 4 is also a must.


Recommended listening: Rabo de Nube (ECM, 2008);

Lift Every Voice (ECM, 2002); Forest Flower (Atlantic, 1966)


Charles Lloyd Quartet with Jason Moran,

Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland.

4 July, 7:30 PM,

Wiener Staatsoper,

Opernring 2, 1010 Vienna


Jazz Fest Wien TicketCenter:

Tel (01) 408 60 30


Musicologist Jean-Pascal Vachon teaches at Webster University Vienna and gives lectures on the history of music at various venues around the city. In addition, he also contributes texts and works as a translator for the Swedish classical label, BIS.

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