Many musicians work diligently to build a career for themselves. Although dedicated to music, these players also try to build a fanbase, book concerts, and score record deals. However, there are an equal number of performers who are driven more by creating music than making it in the music business. Unfortunately, many artists who fall into this second category often fail to get the recognition they deserve. Pianist Larry Bluth
could easily fit into this category of talented musicians that more jazz fans need to hear.
Bluth was a dedicated pianist and educator with a true passion for jazz. He studied with Sal Mosca
for years and was influenced by Lennie Tristano
. Bluth died in 2020 and, although he recorded some well-received albums, he never attained a great deal of mainstream success. However, his longtime friend and band mate, bassist Don Messina
compiled and produced Never More Here
, a collection of impressive live performances from The Larry Bluth Trio, recorded in 1996 and 2001. Never More Here
features Bluth with Messina on bass and Bill Chattin
on drums. Many of the selections are jazz standards, but there are some original compositions as well. While Messina and Chattin are without question excellent musicians, what really sets these recordings apart is Bluth's masterful piano style.
Since these are live performances, Bluth is in his element here. There is a sense of spontaneity present throughout the record. However, he is not just playing while the band follows along. Taking a cue from Tristano, Bluth is clearly intent on listening to the other players. As Messina describes in the liner notes, Bluth "was all about listening to each other, and playing with a feeling that was intense, yet light and swinging."
This spontaneity is evident from the opening track, Charlie Parker
's "Klactoveedsedstene." Bluth is clearly paying close attention to the other players, easing back at times to give them a chance to stretch out. The piano here, though, is on point. As Messina explains, "I think he captured Bird's feeling accurately and soulfully."
Bluth's sensitivity and awareness as a player bring a sense of fullness and vitality to this recording. When the group is playing standards such as "These Foolish Things" or "Yesterdays," his playing is straight ahead and melodic. Some of the songs, however, such as "Larry's Line," lend themselves to a little stylistic playfulness where Thelonious Monk
's influence comes into the mix. Never More Here
is cool jazz at its best, and Bluth's chemistry with Messina and Chattin is satisfying on every level. This is an excellent album which also serves as a fitting tribute to this exceptional musician.
Klactoveedsedstene; Sweet and Lovely; Sippin' at Bell's; A Ghost of a Chance; Yesterdays; Riverdale; Larry's Line; These Foolish Things; Sound-Lee