Jazz piano great and noted composer Larry Willis survived a fire just over a month ago that consumed his house and all of his belongings. On Monday, Feb. 26, Fazioli Salon will present “Pianists Play for Larry,” a concert of distinguished jazz pianists at St. Peter’s Church in New York City. The suggested $20 contribution will go to help Willis.
Born in 1942, Willis got his start as a classical musician. His first gig was as a singer in the Music and Arts Chorale Ensemble under the direction of Leonard Bernstein. After enrolling at the Manhattan School of Music, Willis switched his focus from vocals to music theory. As a black musician, he only had so much mobility in classical music, so he gravitated towards jazz piano. Drawing his avant-garde style from the likes of Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis and many others, Willis has covered nearly every genre in his career, from jazz and fusion to rock, and even Latin and African music. By age 19, Willis played regularly with alto sax legend Jackie McLean. In 1965, post-graduation, Willis recorded Right Now! on the Blue Note label. Since his debut, Willis has proved his versatility, playing in various forms on over 300 albums.