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INTERVIEWS

Larry Willis: Reaching and Teaching

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In a career spanning five decades, Larry Willis has amassed one the most impressive resumes in jazz, including tenures with Jackie McLean, Hugh Masekela, Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Stan Getz, Carla Bley, Roy Hargrove, Jimmy Cobb's So What Sextet and Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band, testifying to the high esteem in which he is held by his peers. Yet despite a substantial discography including scores of sideman appearances and over twenty dates as a leader, the gifted pianist/composer is only just beginning to receive the critical and popular acclaim his talent so richly deserves. Here he shares some ...

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Larry Willis: The Offering, Excursions & Expose

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Larry Willis The Offering HighNote 2008 Paul Murphy/Larry Willis Excursions Wicked Chops 2008 Paul Murphy/Larry Willis Expose Murphy 2008

Pianist Larry Willis leads a full, interesting musical life. From these two projects that span three CDs we hear Willis the rock solid post-bop pianist, a technical virtuoso with exciting melodic/harmonic ideas and Willis the courageous sonic explorer. There are very few artists that ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Larry Willis: The Offering

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New York native Larry Willis has had a distinguished career performing with artists as diverse as Jackie McLean, Blood, Sweat & Tears and Woody Shaw. Although he's not nearly as well known as he should be, the veteran pianist has established himself in the upper echelon of modern jazz recording artists. The Offering finds Willis in the all-star company of bassist Eddie Gomez, drummer Billy Drummond and, for three tunes, saxophonist Eric Alexander.

The six-note ostinato bass line on the title track sets Willis in high-flying motion, caressing the keys with stylish improvised flitters. The driving opener also features a ...

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Larry Willis: Blue Fable and Alter Ego

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Larry Willis Blue Fable High Note 2007 Tony Pancella Alter Ego Mapleshade 2007

Larry Willis is one of those musicians whose name should always be remembered when the subject of terrific and, alas, sometimes forgotten pianists comes up. He has been on the scene for over 40 years -- from his early quartet work with Jackie McLean through time with Hugh Masekela, to a stint with Blood, Sweat and Tears and ...

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Larry Willis: The Big Push & The Powers of Two, Vol. 2

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Pianist Larry Willis has had an important and distinguished 40-year career in jazz, even if his name isn't as well known as it should be. Since making his recording debut on Jackie McLean's landmark 1965 album Right Now!, the New York-born Willis, who turns 66 this month, has played everything from free jazz to fusion to rock (he was a member of Blood, Sweat and Tears in the '70s), while performing as a valued sideman with such jazz titans as Dizzy Gillespie, Lee Morgan, Cannonball Adderley, Art Blakey and Woody Shaw.

Larry Willis Trio The Big Push

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Larry Willis: The Big Push

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Pianist Larry Willis has been on over 300 sideman sessions and led eighteen of his own albums since 1970, fifteen of them since 1989. Willis has been in involved in many sub-genres of jazz, largely in the earlier years including jazz-rock fusion and the avant-garde. He was the pianist for Blood Sweat & Tears in the early '70s, Sonny Fortune in the late '70s, and David “Fathead" Newman, Carla Bley and Nat Adderley in the '80s. His albums have appeared on Groove Merchant, Audioquest, Brunswick and Mapleshade.

In choosing a trio for The Big Push, Willis selected drummer ...

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Larry Willis: Sanctuary & The Powers of Two

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Larry Willis Sanctuary Mapleshade Records 2003

Larry Willis, for too long a time unjustly under-recorded as a leader, happily has found a home as Mapleshade Records' music director for the past 12 years. The Maryland-based label has afforded the veteran New Yorker a multitude of opportunities to demonstrate his imposing talents as a pianist, composer, arranger and producer, but Sanctuary is easily the best of these efforts to date. The album of spiritually motivated music captures Willis at the height of his powers in a variety of situations that graciously draw the listener into ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Larry Willis: Sanctuary

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Antediluvian of method or anachronistic of taste, dedicated purist or obdurate conservative, iconoclast or ludite, the debates surrounding Mapleshade owner, engineer, and producer Pierre Sprey will most likely never reach a definitive conclusion. Regardless of what label one chooses to apply, Mapleshade productions possess a distinct sound related directly to Sprey's dedicated traditional recording methods. Using a system of careful mike placement and recording directly to two-track analog, Sprey recreates the classic '50s era studio conditions, enabling jazz musicians to lay down their music in an unfettered situation closely analogous to live performance. It may also be ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Bob Kindred with Larry Willis: Gentle Giant of the Tenor Sax

Bob Kindred traveled to the bucolic surroundings of Mapleshade's recording studio in rural Maryland to team with pianist Larry Willis for a session of more than 60 minutes' worth of “gentle" but not outdated jazz performances. In some respects Kindred is a throwback to Ben Webster and the tender side of Stan Getz. His playing recalls that distinctive rasping timbre and excellent rhythmic momentum that characterized Webster, especially in his later years. But Kindred also shows that he is not unfamiliar with the modern jazz idiom as he interpolates dissonant avant-garde improvisations throughout, such as on of Django Reinhardt's “Anouman" ...



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