Charles Lloyd – Arrows Into Infinity, Blu-ray (2014)

Charles Lloyd – Arrows Into Infinity, Blu-ray (2014)

Cast: Charles Lloyd; Kiyoshi Koyama; Lewis Steinberg; Buddy Collette; John Densmore; Stanley Crouch; Michael Cuscuna; Arthur Monroe; Jim Keltner; Robbie Robertson; Herbie Hancock; Manfred Eicher; Jack DeJohnette; Don Was; Jason Moran and others
Featuring archival footage from: BBC Jazz 625 (1964); American Folk Blues Festival (1964); Festival de Jazz d’Antibes Juan le Pins (1966); Newport Jazz Festival (1966); TV Jazz (1966); Jazz Pour Tous (1966); Jazkaar Tallinn (1967); A Journey Within (1968); Jazz, The Intimate Art (1968); Charles And Michel, A Big Sur Meeting (1981); Festival International de Jazz Montreal (2001); HOME (2004); Montreux Jazz Festival (2006); The Monk And The Mermaid (2008) and a selection of live performances from 2008 and 2010.
Studio: ECM Records ECM 5052 378 0650 [8/25/14]
Directors: Dorothy Darr, Jeffery Morse
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9, 1080p HD Color & black & white
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish
Length: 113 minutes
Ratings:   Video: ****   Audio: ****

Like many great jazz artists, Charles Lloyd was influenced by his geography and culture. Growing up in Memphis, he was familiar with the vast river culture of blues, gospel and jazz. Equally important was the diverse ethnic background, including Africa, Cherokee, Mongolian and Irish. As a teenager he played jazz with Booker Little, George Coleman, Harold Mabern and Frank Stolzier. As a blues player, he performed with the likes of Johnny Ace, Bobby “Blues” Bland, Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King.

Like many jazz greats, classical music was an important component to Lloyd’s music. In the fifties he moved to the West Coast, earning a degree at USC. There he became a fixture on the local jazz scene, playing with Charlie Haden, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Bobby Hutcherson and Don Cherry. He was signed to ECM Records and eventually formed his own quartet (that released the million-selling Forest Flower album) with Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette and Cecil McBee. The quartet proudly shared the Fillmore Auditorium stage with rock acts like Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead. His creativity, world music approach and spirituality transformed him into a unique musician. At the height of his popularity, he dropped out of the jazz scene to pursue spiritual awakening in Big Sur (although he remained somewhat active, recording and performing with quartets, and occasional collaborative stints with The Beach Boys).

Co-directors and producers Dorothy Darr (Lloyd’s wife) and Jeffery Morse have made a documentary celebrating the life of Charles Lloyd. Arrows Into Infinity focuses on the artistic journey that Lloyd took in developing his art. Without the customary voiceover, Lloyd, fellow musicians and jazz historians attempt to weave a linear (as linear as one gets with this musician) narrative. Using some terrific vintage footage, a maverick comes to life on the screen. After his early Memphis days with Howlin’ Wolf, Lloyd became part of the jazz scene as a member of the Chico Hamilton group. Soon he would break through with Forest Flower. There is compelling footage of the famous quartet, including Keith Jarrett plucking at the internal strings of the piano. He became the first serious jazz musician to be revered by the psychedelic rock scene and influenced a generation of rockers. Lloyd’s appeal to the “hippie movement” rivaled Charlie Parker’s esteem with The Beat Generation. He appeared at pop and jazz festivals frequently. There is an interesting video of him singing a la Bob Dylan during this phase.

There are few intimate, personal details as Farr and Morse concentrate on the musical passages of his life. After a self-imposed exile, he teamed up with French pianist Michel Petrucciani and began recording again. Their 1982 concert album at Montreux garnered critical acclaim. Lloyd was never concerned about branding himself or establishing a career niche. So he continued on his path of discovery, and performs to this day with a quartet featuring Jason Moran on piano. Throughout the film, Lloyd’s agility and compositional acuity are on display with nimble tenor saxophone and flute snippets. The interviews are relaxed and thoughtful.

The Blu-ray video quality is excellent. There is vintage black & white footage that is vibrant in high definition. The audio is clear (especially the interviews) and the music sounds crisp. Charles Lloyd embodies the spirit of jazz and Arrows Into Infinity does a credible job of portraying this.

—Robbie Gerson

 

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