Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Larry Willis: Sanctuary

There is nothing musically that Larry Willis hasn’t mastered-unless it be Celtic or zydeco. His eclecticism has run the gamut from rock to opera. He’s written symphonic scores and spent seven years as keyboardist for Blood, Sweat and Tears. But first and foremost, Willis is a jazz musician, as evidenced by his latest release, Sanctuary (Mapleshade). Most of the tunes are by Willis; all have religious titles or religious dedications. But you would never know that thematic conception (with the exception of the traditional “A Balm in Gilead,” which is sung) if you heard the album in a blindfold test. What emerges is that Willis is an amazingly talented writer for strings, a hard-swinging pianist and a fine creator of moods as a composer. He has surrounded himself with first-rate talent: Joe Ford, various saxes (also a good string arranger); Ray Codrington, trumpet; Steve Novosel, bass; Steve Berrios, drums; and the Rick Schmidt Strings, a nine-piece complement that stays in tune.

Originally Published