Saturday night the Charles Lloyd New Quartet played SF Jazz as part of his residency. Charles has been one of my most profound influences, since I saw his first great quartet, with Keith Jarrett, Cecil McBee, and Jack DeJohnette in the 60's at the Fillmore. (Opening for Albert King, headliner B.B. King, no less. Thank you Bill Graham). The New Quartet, with Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Eric Harland on drums, has been his primary vehicle since 2007. It is ironic, but probably not an accident, that the two most forward and contemporary bands in the world are led by elders: Charles Lloyd and Wayne Shorter. They have always pushed the boundaries, with exquisite taste. Charles was in brilliant form Saturday, it was perhaps the finest performance of his I've ever seen, and one of the very best performances I've seen from anyone. (Miles and Ravi Shanker clocked in a few). Many of the pieces started out as whisper soft ballads and then built to rock and roll intensity. (After the concert, Charles addressed the audience and reminded us that as a youth in Memphis, he played with many blues masters, including Johnny Ace, Bobby Blue Bland, Howling' Wolf, and B.B. King). They played through the changes of Autumn Leaves, without the melody, it became completely new. The final encore, requested by many in the audience, was Forest Flower. Like all forward explorers, I don't think he has played the song that made him famous for many years - like every note he plays, it was completely fresh and new. In the words of The New York Times’ Ben Ratliff: “Follow the career of Charles Lloyd, and you see a map of great jazz across half a century. His shows, full of momentum and intuition, perfectly represent the idea that the best jazz needs to be experienced live.” Charles's start in the big time was musical director for Chico Hamilton, with whom I had the privilege of playing in 1979-1980.