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Larry Willis: I Fall in Love Too Easily

Jack Bowers By

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Larry Willis: I Fall in Love Too Easily
I Fall in Love Too Easily is subtitled "The Final Session at Rudy Van Gelder's," as it is not only descriptively but literally the last recording session by veteran pianist Larry Willis, who died at age seventy-six in September 2019, one year after the album was completed at the renowned Van Gelder studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The occasion also represented a homecoming of sorts for Willis who launched his six-decades-long career at that same studio in 1965, cutting an album for Blue Note Records under saxophonist Jackie McLean's leadership.

McLean is one of an impressive number of jazz luminaries with whom Willis performed and / or recorded over the years including the long-time colleagues on this quintet date: trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, alto saxophonist Joe Ford, bassist Blake Meister and drummer Victor Lewis. Glossing over the risk of seeming overly retro, it must be reported that the sounds they weave together on Too Easily aren't far removed from those produced in that session with McLean and company some fifty-five years ago. Ford, in fact, bears some resemblance to McLean in tone and phrasing, while Pelt calls to mind such Blue Note stars as Lee Morgan, Donald Byrd, Kenny Dorham and others. Pelt appears on five of the album's eight numbers, Ford on four. Willis, Meister and Lewis comprise a piano trio on "Anna" and "Let's Play," and Willis goes it alone on the sumptuous finale / title song. The full quintet performs on "Today's Nights," "Heavy Blue," "Habiba" and "Climax."

Ford's earnest "Today's Nights" sets a strong compass, with crisp solos by Ford, Pelt and Willis leading to the fast-moving "Heavy Blue," a second number by the full quintet that enfolds sharp statements by all hands, and the trio's tender ballad, "Anna," whose solo space is shared by Willis and Meister. Kirk Lightsey's light and rhythmic "Habiba" is followed by a second ballad, Bobby Troup's "The Meaning of the Blues," which serves as a showcase for Pelt's eloquent trumpet. The trio returns for the dapper "Let's Play," the quintet for the lively "Climax," on which Pelt and Ford fashion nimble farewells while Lewis proves as able a soloist as he is a timekeeper. Suitably, that leaves Willis to himself on "I Fall in Love Too Easily," written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn and introduced by Frank Sinatra in 1945 in the film Anchors Aweigh., Willis is bright and charming there, as he is throughout, and it's a marvelous way not only to complete an album but to seal a career.

Track Listing

Today’s Nights; Heavy Blue; Anna; Habiba; The Meaning of the Blues; Let’s Play; Climax; I Fall in Love Too Easily.

Personnel

Larry Willis: piano; Jeremy Pelt: trumpet; Joe Ford: saxophone, alto; Blake Meister: bass; Victor Lewis: drums.

Album information

Title: I Fall in Love Too Easily | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: HighNote Records

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