A leading blues musician comes home to Connecticut
By Mara Dresner
Musician Lazer Lloyd is coming home to Connecticut to play at the Shoreline Jewish Festival on August 11.
Lloyd, who was known as Lloyd Paul Blumen while growing up in Connecticut (and performed for a time as Eliezer Blumen), lived in Madison and attended Daniel Hand High School, where his parents Joel and Barbara Blumen still reside.
As a child, he learned to play guitar and tuba.
“My dad took me to see George Benson, Santana and Stevie Ray [Vaughn], all at age 14, but very early he had the blues and jazz non-stop on the stereo,” said Lazer, who was also influenced by B.B. King and Kenny Burrell.
“I wanted to play the blues,” he says. At age fifteen, Lloyd was playing in night clubs along the Connecticut shoreline and in New Haven with his group Legacy.
“The first band Legacy was with some friends in high school and we won the ‘Battle of the Bands,’ and then started playing club gigs very early and all summer,” he says.
Lloyd knew then that music was the path he’d pursue. “After the first ‘Battle of the Bands’ at high school and hearing the crowd scream when I played the solo to ‘Light My Fire,’ that was it.”
Lloyd went on to study music at Skidmore College, where he played and studied under famous bluesmen such as Milt Hinton (bass player for Louis Armstrong), Randy Brecker (Blood, Sweat and Tears) and Gene Bertoncini.
After college, he returned to Connecticut to form his own rock and blues band called The Last Mavericks. The Last Mavericks became popular and their first demo gained them a showcase with Atlantic Records. Toby Mofet from A&R at Atlantic took Lazer to Manhattan to record more material and wanted Lazer to go to Nashville to work with producer Gary Talent (the bass player from The E-Street Band).
At this point, Lazer Lloyd’s life took an unexpected turn: a gig playing with Shlomo Carlebach.
“I met a homeless man who helped hook me up with Shlomo; I met him in Central Park. That’s when I realized I can’t sell myself anymore,” recalls Lloyd. “He turned me upside down and shook me inside out. [It was] so real, so deep, my blues.”
“Shlomo said I should play with him in Israel,” said Lloyd, who moved to Israel in 1994, where he married Elana. They live with their five children in Beit Shemesh.
For a decade Lloyd toured around the world as lead guitar player and second singer for legendary Israeli jam band Reva L’Sheva. Then he formed the power trio Yood and produced the record “Passin’over” in 2007. The band toured Israel as well as U.S. college campuses for three years.
In recent years, Lloyd has shifted his focus to a new project, the Lazer Lloyd Blues Band, which has successfully crossed over into the Israeli mainstream music scene, been featured on Israeli television, radio and in the international media.
Lloyd has recorded several solo albums, acoustic and electric. Most recently, Lazer’s 2012 electric record, “My Own Blues,” was the Israeli Blues Society’s selection for Best Israeli Blues Album in 2012. Lazer has just signed with BluesLeaf Records and recorded a solo acoustic album, “Lost on the Highway,” which will be released on August 13.
“Eliezer has a unique mix of both his specialty which is blues coming from a deep spiritual place that is accessible to people of all backgrounds; on the other hand, he also has a great feeling for the Chassidic niggun [traditional Jewish tune] which he gives in own unique way, and he is able to transfer his passion and love to the listener,” said Rabbi Yossi Yaffe of Chabad of the Shoreline, which is sponsoring the 8th Annual Shoreline Jewish Festival. “In addition, he himself is a person who is on a spiritual journey that is inspiring and it comes through in his music as well, in particular caring for all people and his unique love for Jewish people which is really impressive.”
Lloyd says his music has changed since being in Israel. “My songwriting has become deeper being faced with life and death much more closely,” he notes. “My music is unique blues rock with a universal spiritual message and [is] always changing as I am.”
He continues to search for music that will resonate throughout the world. “My musical dream is to find a style of music and song that the whole world can relate to. I think the niggun is the form. It’s a spiritual blues without words and can be very meditative and joyful at the same time,” he says. “I compose many of these and play them for many different audiences around the world in the show and I see it reaches everyone.”
Lloyd noted that “music and food” have major places in Israeli life. “In Israel, food and music play the biggest role in the society and in the synagogue. With all the tension and suffering the society has gone through, I really feel the responsibility to make sure people let it all out, laugh it out. I tried to take out their blues.”
He wants people to leave his concerts transformed, thinking, “Wow, I feel my soul so deep; what is really going on?”
The 8th Annual Shoreline Jewish Festival will be held August 11, 12 noon — to 5 p.m. on the Guilford Green. Admission is free. For more information, visit jewishshoreline.org.
Mara Dresner is an award-winning journalist living in Rocky Hill.