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 boisterous drum solo by Drummond. "TD's Tune," Willis' bouncy minor theme allows Gomez to flex his creative muscles, resulting in a bass solo of astonishing lyricism.
The spacious, Latin-tinged "Alter Ego" segues nicely into the melancholic charm of Willis' "Ethiopia," a compositional high point of the disc. Willis' arrangement, featuring beautifully bowed passages for Gomez, is hauntingly lush.
Alexander demonstrates a soulful edge on the up-tempo "The Rock." His blistering tenor foray intensifies the proceedings and leads to charged up solo turns by Willis and Drummond. "Three-Four Movement" is a light-as-air waltz with a thick harmonic undercurrent, reminiscent of the recordings Gomez made with pianist Bill Evans in the 1970s.
Although "Theme from Star Trek" may seem like an odd choice for a jazz recording, the familiar theme lends itself surprisingly well to the swinging treatment exhibited here. The disc ends with a brief solo piano reading of Duke Ellington's "Melancholia," a poignant ending to session filled with moments of creative mastery.
Personnel: Larry Willis: piano; Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone (2, 5, 7); Eddie Gomez: bass; Billy Drummond: drums.