You may know organist Larry Young
from his work in The Tony Williams
Lifetime band (with John McLaughlin
) and later with Jimi Hendrix
, and Carlos Santana
or you may just be hip to his Blue Note 1960's years. Nonetheless, you would certainly be surprised to learn that he lived to be just 38 years old, passing away in 1978. As the philosopher Lao Tzu said, "The flame that burns twice as bright, burns half as long"
Born Larry John McCoy in Newark, New Jersey in 1940, he later changed his name to Larry Young Jr., (his father's last name) because his grandfather was also an organist. Young began playing in organ trios performing soul jazz and R&B throughout New Jersey. His evolution, though, accelerated quite quickly, paralleling the 1960's music of John Coltrane
and blasting off into new territories via Miles Davis
' Bitches Brew
(Columbia, 1970) session and the aforementioned jazz-rock fusion.
Resonance Records, which specializes in finding historic often unheard recordings, worked with ORTF (the Office of French Radio and Television) archives to unearth these tapes not heard since their original broadcast fifty years ago. The two-CD (or limited edition LPs) present pristine sound from the ORTF Studios in Paris and at a jazz awards ceremony at La Locomotive, where Young performed as a sideman with saxophonist Nathan Davis
, the Jazz aux Champs-Élysées All-Stars, and his own piano trio.
The significance of this music is informed by the ripening of Young's approach, as these sessions recorded in 1964 and1965 were the precursors to his masterpiece Blue Note session Unity
(1965) with Joe Henderson
, Elvin Jones
and the teenage trumpeter Woody Shaw
, who appears here. The Nathan Davis Quartet performs a twenty-minute live version of Shaw's "Zoltan," a piece made famous from that Unity
session. The piece allows the soloists to stretch-out. Davis' tenor ignites Shaw's solo before Young squares off with Billy Brooks' drums. Where organists before Young delivered a bulky soul sound, Young's affection for Coltrane's quartet led him to tailor his organ to McCoy Tyner
's acoustic approach. These sides also include compositions Young recorded for Blue Note including "Talkin' About J.C.," "Luny Tune," and "Beyond All Limits."
The expanded Jazz aux Champs-Élysées All-Stars band which adds trumpeter Sonny Grey, saxophonist Jean-Claude Fohrenbach, pianist Jack Diéval, Italian drummer Franco Manzecchi, and conga player Jacky Bamboo account for three pieces here. Their swinging/hipster blues piece "Discothèque" is a pause in the evolution of Young's flights, but it is evidence that he could accent even as an accompanist. Elsewhere, the All-Stars eat up "Talkin' About J.C." and "La Valse Grise" pushing soul jazz into the 1960's Coltrane revolution.
The second disc ends with "Larry's Blues," a rare piece performed on piano. Young's sound could easily be mistaken here for that of a cross between Thelonious Monk
and McCoy Tyner
. Isn't that a perfect summation of modern music?
The sound quality, especially the studio dates, is excellent making this a rare and, oh so precious find.