Charles Lloyd- Arrows into Infinity
(ECM DVD – 3780649, Blu-Ray 3780650. Review by Mike Collins)
“It’s Arrows into Infinity” declares Charles Lloyd in the closing frames of this compelling documentary, as he muses on his approach to music making and playing live with his latest, extraordinary quartet featuring Jason Moran, Eric Harland and Reuben Rogers. Dorothy Darr, Lloyd’s wife, manager and co-producer/director with Jeffrey Morse, has created a beautifully made and edited film that allows Lloyd’s character and story to shine through, setting that final statement in a context that makes perfect sense.
The story doesn’t need embellishment. Working predominantly with interviews, live footage from gigs and linking pieces filmed over eight years, the progression of this extraordinary musician unfolds through his and the voices of just about every jazz legend you can imagine. There are no voice-overs or commentary. We follow him from early gigs with Howlin Wolf, to million record selling stardom at the height of the psychedelic sixties with the boundary busting Forest Flower quartet that included Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette and Cecil McBee. Such was his fame, that his subsequent withdrawal to a reclusive existence was likened by critic Stanley Crouch, to that of Greta Garbo. The nearly twenty years living quietly on the West Coast ended with a re-emergence in the mid-eighties at the behest of a young Michel Petrucciani and a second recording and performing career began. There followed a succession of exceptional quartets and eclectic projects that continues today.
There’s exhilarating footage from every era, especially of the quartet when they were sharing bills with the likes of the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix. There’s a suggestion that their trance like, tumultuous free vamps were influences on the former of those bands. That little nugget shed a new light on a curious, almost unremarked Keith Jarrett release of last year called No End; a double CD of Grateful Dead-like extended jams recorded in the pianist’s home studio in the mid 80s featuring him on all instruments including Rhodes and electric guitar. Perhaps a part of him just didn’t want that era to end. At whatever stage we hear Lloyd however, there’s the same beautiful, fluid, questing sound. One interviewer asks him where it comes from. The slightly startling answer is Lester Young. “He had that pretty, gentle sound” says Lloyd. “There’s not enough of that in the world”. This isn’t a hagiography. There’s no dodging the negative impact of the ‘tragic magic’ of drugs in his sixties heyday. It is an uplifting and inspiring film about one the giants of this music. I was online booking my ticket to see him at the London Jazz Festival the minute I pressed the stop button.