Lloyd Gregory, a popular entertainer on the San Francisco/Bay area music scene for several decades, tips his hat to those who influenced him while carving his own distinctive style.
JazzReview: Could you tell us more about how you find the idea for creating Free Fallin’ and in particular, how this album was created?
Lloyd Gregory: Different songs came to me in different ways; some songs come out of meditation, some songs come from times when I’m doing solo gigs and I played some changes that felt good, I would later jot them down on a piece of paper and save them and maybe add to them as time goes by. Sometimes I’ll just sit down for the purpose of writing a song even though that tends to be the hardest way to write. If I do it that way I tend to write a lot of the same type of stuff and then and then I have to take the best of that group and that will be the song that I will start with and the rest will go in the circular file( trash) the first cut.
Usually for every song that I record, it was picked from 5 to 10 songs that I wrote. The rest usually get dumped. If they didn’t make the second cut, then obviously they weren’t strong enough. It seems though the best songs come from meditation, cause then I will go deep into the quiet and try to connect with the source. That way, the music comes from the love.
JazzReview: While listening to your music, somehow I have a feeling that you’ve done it for many lives. Did you ever think about it and what is your opinion concerning this?
Lloyd Gregory: Interesting question. You know there is a lot attention directed towards past lives. I can’t really speak on this, but I do know that before I could crawl (my mother told me) I used to scoot to the radio that was playing music. I started with piano lessons at five years old and once I started, I wanted to play professionally, I guess cause I loved it so much. After that, I changed instruments many times, but I was always doing music, playing cello in school from elementary thru high school orchestra. I had traveled around the world playing guitar before I settled down to do any serious guitar or music studying. So maybe I was doing it in the past lifetimes, or maybe I was destined to do it, but it’s what I do.
JazzReview: Who were the original sources of inspiration and influences as far as improvisation, etc.? And do you take it as a "route" or as "direction?"
Lloyd Gregory: That question is loaded. My inspirations came from may sources--the jazz greats from Charlie Parker, Dizzy, Louie Armstrong, Coltrane, Miles, Wes, Kenny Burrell, Oscar Peterson, Charlie Christian, Django, to the guitar players like Segovia, Bola Sete, Juan Serrano, B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, T. Bone Walker, David T. walker, Hendrix, Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, Van Halen, etcetera ad nauseum.
You see I listened to a lot of people. I played on shows with a few of them also. There is a lot of music out there. Each area of the world has music that it caters to. If you drive down the street with your car window open you will hear a different radio station blasting out of the window of every car you pass.
All of these were influences at one time or another, even the classical. I’m listening to movie soundtracks at this time. As far as the route or direction, I hear stuff that touches me. If the guys(the band) like it, we play it. If not, we’ll do something else.
JazzReview: You have developed an array of wonderful musicians on your album. Do you choose a particular musician according to his/her ability to perform your ideas, or is it an adventure to play with new musicians? Do you mind them bringing unexpected influence to the recording?
Lloyd Gregory: One thing I have been blessed with is the ability to know which people work well together. Maybe it’s not a blessing, seeing how everybody that was on the CD Free Fallin', has worked with me over a period of at least the last ten years. I knew which ones fed off each other and just called the teams in to work together. All of them have worked together and are very comfortable with each other. It’s just that certain ones create certain vibes together. There is a lot of love between all of them, it’s a musical family. And yes, they have ideas and I try to use every one of the things that they come up with. They all have musical integrity so if it doesn’t work they will know it also. But their stuff usually works. Maybe I’m just blessed , period!
JazzReview: Music seems to be a major part of your life. Were your parents musicians? How were you encouraged to start a jazz musician’s career?
Lloyd Gregory: Music is my life, it’s part of me. The music and I are one. There is no separation. My mom played the piano a little because she taught young children and she played nursery rhymes for them to sing in class. My aunts were gospel singers, but I didn’t find this out until I was playing music for a living.
I don’t think I was encouraged to start a jazz career. I might have had the support of my parents to play the music that I wanted to play, but this jazz musician label is recent. I am just a musician that plays the guitar. Others have labeled the music that I write. To me, it’s just the music that I wrote at that time and the music that felt good to me.
JazzReview: What events have had the greatest impact on your musical and personal life?
Lloyd Gregory: One great event was as a young child my dad took me to this blind man’s house that he used to go to as a child. This old man played guitar and harmonica. I was blown away. I was real little I think.
I think [also] playing gigs around the R&B greats while I was in my late teens (18,19). I remember being on the road my first time in L. A. We were at a motel with the Impressions band. They were wearing the nicest quality suits I had ever seen and talked about their horses and property that they were buying. I said to myself, ‘I wanna be like them!!!’ Now in my personal life I think I have to say [the greatest impact personally] was watching my children being born. Nothing can top that.
JazzReview: When did you know that you’d found your own sound?
Lloyd Gregory: Thank you for the compliment. I really have never thought of it like that.
JazzReview: When can we expect something else from Lloyd Gregory?
Lloyd Gregory: Let us hope sometime around March of 2004. I have two different projects I want to do.
JazzReview: Recent releases of top jazz musicians show a strong influence of alternative pop music on jazz, as well as facing a growing invasion of electro-pop, rock and even heavy metal musicians into jazz charts. What is your opinion about the difference between contemporary jazz and what we are hearing now?
Lloyd Gregory: You know jazz music, or for that matter all music, reflects the times and the collective experience of the creator. So if you have a musician putting more than one spin on something, this is a reflection of what he has going on in his head. In his head is the reflection of what his ears have heard and those certain things have stuck with him over time.
You know you bring up a good point about rock and heavy metal musicians. When I was younger in Los Angeles, we used to rehearse at a place called "SIR" where a lot of rock and metal players were your classical guitarists gone electric. When I realized that , nothing else in music was strange anymore. Everybody was just playing music. You have musicians from all the different musical schools (genres) playing all sorts of music. That’s the beauty of it.
JazzReview: What advice would you give a newcomer entering the music industry?
Lloyd Gregory: Practice. Get a teacher ‘cause even your top athletes have a coach. Do it because you love it. If you don’t love it and are just doing it for the money, get a job and become a banker or a stockbroker. Also learn about the business. Try to play with people better than yourself. It’s humbling, but you will learn quicker that way. Always be willing to share your knowledge with those that you know less than you, because in trying to get them to understand, you will solidify your own knowledge. When you develop the habit of sharing from your heart, others will share with you. It’s called the "Law of Karma."
Free Fallin’ is available in stores and at integyentertainment.com.