JAZZ Charles Lloyd Group Edinburgh: Queen's Hall, Fri 7 Nov.
In the late 60$, saxophonist Charles Lloyd became one of the biggest names in jazz, and also won a huge following with a wider rock audience. His evocative but uncompromising music on albums like Dream Weaver and Forest Flower bridged the genre gap without ever attempting to be crossover music.
’The 605 was a time of great idealism, and radio was much more free-form, so we would be played on FM alongside the Grateful Dead, and the whole thing seemed a natural progression,’ says Lloyd. ’It was just young people coming to hear music, and we were giving our all. It all went so fast for three and half years, and it was only then that I stopped to analyse it.’
What the saxophonist did next caused great surprise. The effects of relentless touring was compounded by the deaths of close musician friends and the shock of his mother’s death at the age of S4. The combined pressure brought him to a profound spiritual reassessment.
'I felt an increasing inner quest to nourish the spiritual side of myself on a deeper level, and I needed solitude for that, so I took myself off to this rugged coastline of Big Sur, and to the woods,’ explained Lloyd. 'I got a lot of spiritual nourishment from that process, from those glimpses of the absolute that I experienced. I still
played, just not in public - I never gave up music, and I
Lloyd returned briefly to performing in the early 80s, then took another lay-off. A ’near-death experience’ on the operating table in 1985 brought a further profound reassessment, and the saxophonist made what has
proved to be an ongoing return.
He is currently recording regularly for ECM, and has a settled band, featuring the great Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson, Anders Jormin on bass, and drummer
Charles Lloyd: still dreaming and seeking
Billy Hart. Their work on his most recent album,
Canto, continues a process of refinement of both
tone and music, a kind of paring-away of non-
’Yes, that is happening, and it’s an important process for me. I've always been a bit of a dreamer and a
seeker. I'd like to see a better world, and my
contribution to that is through music,’ sighs Lloyd. ‘What I‘m trying to do is get to the pure distillation of communication.’ (Kenny Mathieson)
Ben Harper: plugging into tradition
44 THE lIST 7—20 Nov 1997
ROCK Ben Harper Glasgow: King Tut's, Mon 10 Nov.
According to that esteemed English philosopher Morrissey, they said if you had an acoustic guitar it meant you were a protest singer. And perhaps he was right in the case of Los Angelean Ben Harper, a soulful protest singer with strong spiritual and political beliefs focused on fearing God and respecting the Earth.
Harper's often been compared with Marley and Hendrix — he fronts his own power trio — and others have seen him as the central figure of a growing movement of black acoustic blues players. There have even been attempts to link him lyrically with Maya Angelou and, further back, Walt Whitman. After Welcome To The Cruel World and Fight For Your Mind, his third and latest LP Will To Live came out in May, the scorching slide of the opening track ’Faded' paving the way for rock, reggae, soft ballads and a bag of reinterpreted blues styles.
In his early teens, Harper listened to nothing but hip hop, then discovered blues, and particularly slide guitar, when he went to work in his parents' music store. He found his true voice when he started playing slide sitting down, on his lap. And his sound, his music, all stems from a violin-shaped acoustic Weissenborn guitar, made in the late 1920s or early 1930s He likes being plugged into the tradition that the guitar represents. But, he warned recently, 'For me, tradition is not copying a tradition. A lot of people sort of copy a tradition and then call it tradition. Traditional music is music that's in your heart that you believe, in your life, in your tradition. And it’s OK to incorporate elements of the traditions that you love and respect and come from into what you do. But copying that tradition, to me, IS not respecting that tradition. And there's a certain preservation aspect to carrying on tradition as well, but it’s still not self-expression of your own tradition. It's jUSl preservation of a tradition' (Alastair Mabbott)
FOLK Andrew Calhoun and
Edinburgh: Tron Folk Club, Sat 8 Nov. Good news or bad news, the singer/songwriter syndrome or, as Joni Mitchell put it, to ’sing your simple sorrow to the soundhole on your knee’, seems to be on the way back into fashion. Down in deepest Melrose, American 605 icon Carolyn Hester arrives (7 Nov, info 01896 823854); Joan Baez will be appearing later in the month; Janis Ian, nominated for Grammy awards each decade since her child-prodigy 60’s debut, tours with Martin Stephenson and Martyn Joseph in Welcome To Acoustic Ville, while Chicago-based Andrew Calhoun, founder of specialist US songwriter label Waterbug, brings his partner and fellow performer Kat Eggleston, to play Edinburgh's Tron Folk Club.
Although Andrew admits that he and Eggleston are ‘Scottish song freaks', he feels that there’s little point in singing them to a Scots audience — too daunting! — so they’ll concentrate on their own compositions, both solo and as a duo. Of the Stateside songwriting scene, he is aware that 'the level of talent is great now. You never know why. Maybe it’s a new vocabulary. There’s certainly more sophistication. But, in many ways, the US "folk" world is quite Splintered,' considers Calhoun. ’The East Coast, Boston, Passims coffee bar scene is cliquey. Nashville-style country music songwriters are the fundraising arm of the Republican party, and that’s the only style y0u’ll hear on the radio. Even Kerrville (Texas, the pre-eminent songfest) is big in a small way. There's a lot of good music around campfires (yes, Michelle Shocked), between about two and five in the morning, but a lot on the main stage is an embarrassment.’
'I get demos all the time, sent to the record company, and there's a lot of rubbish, but then, just recently, I got a tape from a nineteen-year-old, she's really good, with original ideas and unusual metaphors,’ explains Calhoun. 'That’s what i want, and I think most people want to hear, not just pleasant- sounding empty lyrics, but songs that I can be involved with, take part in when I’m listening.' (Norman
. Andrew Calhoun: self-confessed Scottish song freak