152

Larry Willis: Sanctuary

Franz A. Matzner By

Sign in to view read count
Larry Willis: Sanctuary Antediluvian of method or anachronistic of taste, dedicated purist or obdurate conservative, iconoclast or ludite, the debates surrounding Mapleshade owner, engineer, and producer Pierre Sprey will most likely never reach a definitive conclusion. Regardless of what label one chooses to apply, Mapleshade productions possess a distinct sound related directly to Sprey's dedicated traditional recording methods. Using a system of careful mike placement and recording directly to two-track analog, Sprey recreates the classic '50s era studio conditions, enabling jazz musicians to lay down their music in an unfettered situation closely analogous to live performance.

It may also be that Sprey's traditionalist methodology draws a certain type of artist to his Maryland studios, namely musicians like Larry Willis. In his capacity as musical director, Willis has consistently brought exceptional musicians to the label. As well, Willis has recorded often for the studio, and his latest release, Sanctuary reveals once again Willis' keyboard mastery, composing and arranging skills—and a propensity for spiritual, serious music.

Performed in a trio with string setting, pieces like "Good Friday" and "A Balm in Gilead" express Willis' religious convictions, exploring through balanced arrangement and delicately played compositions the healing force of Christianity and its deep connection with African American culture. In fact, many of Sanctuary 's tracks express a similarly contemplative mood while offering an examination of American musical and cultural history. For example: the solo piano piece "Were you There," based on a church hymn Willis encountered in a Harlem Baptist church, and the opening track, "The Maji"—which, as Willis' linear notes indicate, introduces a rhythm taken from an old Harlem dance performed during his childhood.

This is a very consistent album which establishes a softly searching tone. Steve Berrios provides steady, subtle rhythmic backing, his cymbal and tom tones sounding particularly melodious and warm. As well, Steve Novosel's clean bass lines pulse gently behind Joe Ford's lush sax sound and Ray Codrington's even-toned trumpet. Of course, throughout, Willis builds composed, almost somber moods with his judicious phrasing.

Sanctuary does not blast the listener with hard bop force or travel into the stratospheres of today's modernistic giants. Neither is it typical smooth jazz. Certainly, the warmth of the album suggests the conservative's nostalgic bent, but there is much more to the music than that. Willis, with the support of the Mapleshade studios, has produced a beautiful series of highly personal works which delve quietly into questions of peace, sorrow, and spiritual transformation.


Track Listing: The Maji; Sanctuary; Good Friday; Brother Ed; A Balm In Gilead; Thank you, lord; Were You There?; Fallen Hero.

Personnel: Larry Willis: Piano; Joe Ford: Saxes; Ray Codrington: Trumpet; Steve Novosel: Bass; Steve Berrios: Drums; Artie Sherman: Vocals; The Rick Schmidt Strings

Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Mapleshade Recordings | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Together, As One" CD/LP/Track Review Together, As One
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 7, 2016
Read "Louisiana Soul Revival featuring Doug Duffey" CD/LP/Track Review Louisiana Soul Revival featuring Doug Duffey
by James Nadal
Published: May 16, 2016
Read "All My Treasures" CD/LP/Track Review All My Treasures
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: November 20, 2016
Read "Celebrating Elvin Jones" CD/LP/Track Review Celebrating Elvin Jones
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 11, 2016
Read "Of Sound Mind" CD/LP/Track Review Of Sound Mind
by Budd Kopman
Published: September 30, 2016
Read "The Garden of Equilibria" CD/LP/Track Review The Garden of Equilibria
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 29, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!