Larry Willis: The Offering

Larry Willis is a player of such solid reliability that his name on an album just about guarantees quality. He has been a premier sideman for 40 years, but he has also made valuable albums as a leader (e.g., Solo Spirit on Mapleshade, A Tribute to Someone on AudioQuest). His taste is reflected in his choices for support staff. Eddie Gomez and Billy Drummond are so up-front on The Offering, and so influential to the session’s texture, that it seems inexact to call them the rhythm section. Eric Alexander’s three clarion, compelling tenor saxophone solos seize you right by the lapels. Rudy Van Gelder is now doing the finest engineering of his distinguished career. (Check out the depth and tightness of Gomez’s bass and the shimmer of Drummond’s cymbals.) Ron Swoboda, formerly of the New York Mets and Yankees, is the author of the refreshingly plainspoken liner notes. Willis also finds nice undiscovered songs (Santi Debriano’s title track and James Williams’ “Alter Ego”). As a pianist Willis is best known for his powerful drive. He is underrated as a ballad player and composer. Both aptitudes are apparent on the album’s most memorable track, “Ethiopia.” Willis lets his spaced chords tell of the tragedy, darkly ringing and tolling, like death knells.