Jazz CD Reviews

Larry Willis – The Offering – High Note

A pianist for all seasons/styles

Published on February 11, 2008

Larry Willis – The Offering  –  High Note
Larry Willis – The Offering – High Note HCD 7178  54:56 ****:

(Larry Willis, piano; Eric Alexander, tenor sax; Eddie Gomez, bass; Billy Drummond, drums)

Larry Willis is a “do right” pianist. In his 43+ year career, he has covered all the jazz idioms: from free jazz to fusion and to straight ahead piano trios. He even played for a time in the 70s for the rock band, Blood, Sweat & Tears. He often serves as the “house” piano player for the audiophile label Mapleshade. He has the ability to fit into any jazz setting and make his involvement an integral part of any session.

On his latest High Note Records CD, Willis is clearly the leader, but he has the advantage of having one of the top young tenor saxists on the scene, Eric Alexander, as well as veteran rhythm legends, bassist Eddie Gomez, and drummer Billy Drummond.

Song selection is a mixture of Santi Debriano’s title cut; Ellington’s Melancholia; the Theme for Star Trek; the late James Williams’ Latinesque Alter Ego, and three original Willis’ compositions. The original song selections have interesting story lines as TD’s Tune is dedicated to the Los Angeles Dodger’s 1960s journeyman outfielder, Tommy Davis, who for a period of time served as Willis’ booking agent. The track Ethiopia was inspired by a TV fundraiser for the famine in Ethiopia and it is a haunting lament which stirs powerful emotions.

You’ll be surprised to find out that the liner notes to this CD were written by former New York Met baseball legend, Ron Swoboda.

The sound on this CD meets the usual impeccable High Note standard as it was engineered, mastered and mixed by the incomparable Rudy Van Gelder, this past October at Van Gelder’s studio.  For those Eric Alexander fans, Eric is featured on the Tommy Davis tribute, TD’s Tune; as well as on The Rock, and he drives the Theme for Star Trek into new territory.

This Willis issue is a solid entry for any jazz collection. Its high class playing and top notch sound make it another High Note “Offering” to consider.

– Jeff Krow

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