Over 50 years into an already legendary career, 2015 is shaping up to be a momentous year for Charles Lloyd. The esteemed saxophonist and composer will be awarded the NEA Jazz Masters honor celebrating his remarkable career as well as recognizing his creative brilliance in the pantheon of such other living and vital jazz legends as Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter. Another career landmark will arrive in April when Lloyd returns to Blue Note Records 30 years after making his label debut for the release of his magnificent new album, Wild Man Dance, a live recording of a remarkable long-form suite commissioned by the Jazztopad Festival in Wroclaw, Poland, to commemorate the festival's tenth anniversary in 2013.
For the past half-century Lloyd has loomed large over the music world with both his presence and his occasional absence. A musical mystic, Lloyd has apprenticed with jazz and blues legends from Phineas Newborn to Cannonball Adderley to Howlin' Wolf, helped launch the careers of jazz luminaries like Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette, co-headlined rock events with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, collaborated with fellow artistic explorers from Ken Kesey to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, pioneered the world music movement by teaming up with the Hungarian guitarist Gabor Szabo and Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain, and became one of the first million-selling jazz artists with the global success of his 1966 album Forest Flower.
The six-movement Wild Man Dance Suite was recorded in its premiere performance at the festival and features pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Joe Sanders, and drummer Gerald Cleaver, as well as Greek lyra virtuoso Sokratis Sinopoulos and Hungarian cimbalom maestro Miklós Lukács, who color and texture and rhythmically charge the music. Lloyd's compositions are at turns elegant, graceful, turbulent, dynamic, meditative, pacific and emotive. The music evokes a sense of transcendence and mysterious journey from the opening ''Flying Over the Odra Valley'' that spotlights Lukács's cosmic hammered delivery as well as the leader's tenor saxophone brio, to the lyricism and dynamics of the epic ''Wild Man Dance'' finale where all the band members gracefully and gleefully converse.