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The Eclectic Mr. Klein

As both a bassist and a producer, Larry Klein plows a wide—and award-winning—furrow

Larry Klein (photo: Alan Shaffer)

Four-time Grammy winner Larry Klein was only in his mid-teens when he had his first epiphany as an aspiring jazz bassist, thanks to the 1968 album Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival. No doubt, other budding young musicians at the time were similarly inspired by the near-telepathic musical conversations between Evans, rising bass ace Eddie Gómez, and fresh-faced drum dynamo Jack DeJohnette. But Southern California native Klein is surely the only one who, while still underage, was introduced by his bass teacher to Gómez—and subsequently hung out with the Evans trio several times a year at the 21-and-up Playboy Club in Los Angeles.

“Somehow my teacher worked it out with Eddie and I went to pretty much every show the trio played there,” remembers Klein, now one of the most versatile and accomplished bassists and producers in and out of jazz. “I was 16 or 17, and there I was, sitting a few feet away from these musicians who were like Marvel Comics characters to me. I got to talk with them between shows and watch every set they played, while being served Coca-Cola by Playboy Bunnies. I thought I had died and gone to heaven!”

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Originally Published

George Varga

George Varga began drumming in bands at 12 and writing professionally about music at 15. A Louisiana native who grew up mostly in Germany, he has earned three Pulitzer Prize nominations as the music critic at the San Diego Union-Tribune. In 2002, he created and taught the UC San Diego Extension course, “Jazz in a Post-Ken-Burns World.” Varga’s latest project is Acid Reflux & The Wardrobe Malfunctions, a free-jazz Ashlee Simpson/Janet Jackson tribute band.