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

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Larry Willis: My Funny Valentine

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Among his contemporaries Kenny Barron, Harold Mabern, Albert Dailey, Stanley Cowell and John Hicks, Larry Willis is one of the great stylists. On his debut CD as leader, recorded in 1988, when he was a mere 47, he shows why. Willis is a rugged individualist, as evidenced by his dramatic reading of the title track.

On solo piano tracks “Lazy Afternoon,” and “It Could Happen to You,” Willis plays with haunting beauty and lyrical swing. Joined by bassist George Mraz and drummer Al Foster for several standards and his own “Blues for Wynton Kelly,” Mr. Willis benefits from the empathetic accompaniment, and his solos, which are teaming with energy, abound in risk and surprise as well. Kenny Garrett is on board for three tracks, including an extraordinary duet Willis wrote entitled “Ethiopia.”

Larry Willis has since released three other CDs as a leader and played on many others as sideman, including recent work with the Fort Apache Band. A consistent, energetic player, Willis comes to play. But why the delayed debut?