Learn How

Help improve All About Jazz

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. For $20, we'll hide those pesky Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

912

Larry Willis: Reaching and Teaching

By

Sign in to view read count
LW: Well first of all, for me for the most part, has to have an element of dance. You have to be able to tap your feet to it in some form or another and just to keep myself open to whatever the possibilities are and never to let my taste in music to be confined and predetermined. The piano helps me in that direction because one of the things that my teacher used to joke about, but it's so very, very true is about the immense dimensions that the instrument has and he would put it this way—he'd say, "Well kid, every time you sit down at this instrument the odds are 88 to ten, and they don't get any better." So if you shut yourself off, you can't go anywhere. And every time I sit down at the piano, the more I learn about it, the more I don't know. And that keeps my interest in this music in all forms. I'm trying to be not just a better pianist, but the best complete musician that I can be.

AAJ: Is there anything else you'd like to talk about?

Paul Murphy and Larry Willis

LW: Well, yes. One of the things that has been a tremendous joy for me and we just hope that this can just continue and grow... I have a very, very interesting and very good musical relationship with a great drummer by the name of Paul Murphy and I think that we are on the cutting edge of something because when we go into the studio to record there is nothing that is prewritten or prearranged. It's a total attempt at improvised music just based upon trusting and listening to the other player and I'm very, very elated about all of this because that is one of the elements that keeps my mind as open as I possibly can.

AAJ: I had the pleasure of reviewing one of those efforts a while back and I always say that it shows just how open you are. I think if I were to play one of those recordings for one of the self proclaimed members of the "jazz police" they perhaps find the Larry Willis they think they know, but if they made the effort to listen closely enough they find that it is indeed the very same Larry Willis.

LW: Same guy (laughs). Haven't gone anywhere.

AAJ: I'd imagine it must be cathartic for you to be able to get out from under all the rules and just be able to play?

LW: Yeah, but the only way that you can do that is learning and understanding the rules in the first place because nothing positive can come out of breaking the rule just because you can. You know there are reasons for it and overpriced (?) freedom. It's just been a revelation and something that we're going to continue and hope to build on. And hopefully we can get out here and play a few concerts and have people experience from a standpoint other than putting on a CD.

AAJ: Anything else?

LW: No just looking forward to continued work with the orchestras and the quintet and with the trio. And I just want to continue growing.

AAJ: Among the orchestral works you did a "Sketches of Spain" concert featuring your arrangements with an Israeli string ensemble. Have you had the chance to perform that here in the States yet?

LW: No. Russ, you know as well as I do, getting gigs in the States now is tantamount to trying to find a needle in a haystack. The interest in this music that keeps everything on an even playing field does not happen here. Even the jazz festivals that come up during late spring and summer, they're not even jazz festivals any longer. The jazz talent that these festivals will hire, you're talking about a very limited number of people and they're usually from another generation. Most of these festivals are basically music festivals. You'll find Gladys Knight and the Pips at a festival that is under the umbrella of jazz.

AAJ: Which wouldn't be such a terrible thing if you could find Larry Willis playing at a festival under an umbrella other than jazz.

LW: Absolutely, but you see that playing field is not level.

AAJ: Somehow jazz musicians are taken advantage of for their open mindedness towards other music in that they will share the stage with other types of artists at their festivals, but are never invited to open for rock of R&B acts.

LW: Because at the end of the day the bottom line comes down to money; certainly jazz represents less than two percent that is played or sold in any kind of economical reason.

AAJ: Well on that sad note, we'll call it an interview.


Selected Discography



Jackie McLean, Right Now! (Blue Note, 1965)

Woody Shaw, Live Volume 1-4 (HighNote, 1977)

Jerry Gonzalez & The Fort Apache Band Rumba Para Monk (Sunnyside, 1988)

Larry Willis, Solo Spirit (Mapleshade, 1992)

Larry Willis Sextet, A Tribute to Someone (Audioquest, 1993)

Paul Murphy/Larry Willis, Foundations (Murphy, 2009)

Photo Credit

Page 1: Eldon Baldwin


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Clarence Becton: Straight Ahead Into Freedom Interviews Clarence Becton: Straight Ahead Into Freedom
by Barbara Ina Frenz
Published: January 19, 2017
Read Matthew Shipp: Let's Do Lunch! Interviews Matthew Shipp: Let's Do Lunch!
by Yuko Otomo
Published: January 16, 2017
Read Erik Friedlander: A Little Cello? Interviews Erik Friedlander: A Little Cello?
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 9, 2017
Read Nat Hentoff: The Never-Ending Ball Interviews Nat Hentoff: The Never-Ending Ball
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 9, 2017
Read Jack Wilkins: Playing What He's Preaching Interviews Jack Wilkins: Playing What He's Preaching
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: December 29, 2016
Read "Alicia Hall Moran: Feeling Blue" Interviews Alicia Hall Moran: Feeling Blue
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2016
Read "Walt Weiskopf: All About the Sound" Interviews Walt Weiskopf: All About the Sound
by Bob Kenselaar
Published: March 31, 2016
Read "Thomas Marriott: Balance in Life and Music" Interviews Thomas Marriott: Balance in Life and Music
by Paul Rauch
Published: September 21, 2016
Read "Nick Brignola: Big Horn, Strong Words" Interviews Nick Brignola: Big Horn, Strong Words
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: October 30, 2016
Read "Joe Ascione and His Brave New World" Interviews Joe Ascione and His Brave New World
by Dr. Judith Schlesinger
Published: March 16, 2016
Read "Matthew Shipp: Let's Do Lunch!" Interviews Matthew Shipp: Let's Do Lunch!
by Yuko Otomo
Published: January 16, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Get Jazz Near You via email!

Enjoy the convenience of receiving a comprehensive listing of jazz events in your area every Thursday. It's free!