Jazz Festival: UMBC Jazz Ensemble with the Larry Willis Trio

Larry Willis
Larry Willis

Friday, April 4 | 7:30 p.m.
Jazz Festival: UMBC Jazz Ensemble with the Larry Willis Trio
Fine Arts Recital Hall

A performance featuring the UMBC Jazz Ensemble and the Larry Willis Trio: Larry Willis (piano), Steve Novocel (bass), Billy Williams (drums).

Pianist Larry Willis has had an important and distinguished 40-year career in jazz. Since making his recording debut on Jackie McLean’s landmark 1965 album “Right Now!,” the New York-born Willis has played everything from free jazz to fusion to rock while performing as a valued sideman with such jazz titans as Dizzy Gillespie, Lee Morgan, Cannonball Adderley, Art Blakey and Woody Shaw.

Larry’s extraordinary versatility as a pianist ranges from rock and pop. He spent 7 years as keyboardist for Blood, Sweat and Tears to African, Brazilian and Afro- Cuban music. He’s one of the only non-Hispanic players who ever impressed Mario Bauza as a Latin pianist.

Another facet of Larry’s genius is his composing and arranging for orchestras and big bands. He’s always had a very special gift for arranging strings, strings that form a gorgeous, open framework for jazz improvisation. His first major string works were symphonic arrangements for a Brooklyn Symphony concert with the Fort Apache Band in 1994. Since then he’s done gem-like string quartet and quintet arrangements for three Mapleshade jazz CDs: John Hicks “Trio Plus Strings,” Sunny Sumter’s “Sunny,” and Monica Worth’s “Never Let Me Go.” Recently, he wrote larger scale arrangements for albums by Roy Hargrove, Vanessa Rubin and Joe Ford, among others. Larry composed an orchestral suite in four movements for the Florida Southern College Symphony Orchestra and then performed it in concert. He was also featured soloist with an Italian chamber orchestra, performing his own compositions.

Larry Willis is a three-time Grammy nominee with Fort Apache as well as pianist on two of their New York Jazz Critics Award-winning CDs. He’s was also on Roy Hargrove’s Grammy-winning “Crisol Band” CD and toured for three years with Roy. Currently, he is touring actively with his own Trio and Quintet as well as with Fort Apache from time to time.

 Larry Willis released in 2007 his tribute to his mentor Jackie Mclean “Blue Fable,” on the HighNote label. With his high school buddy Eddie Gomez on bass, his quintet plays a set of post-bop standards and some original compositions, including an exuberant version of Thelonious Monk’s “Rhythm-A-Ning,” an introspective performance of Miles Davis’s “Nardis,” Jackie McLeans’s “Blue Fable,” (title cut) and his own “Prayer for New Orleans.” His most recent release is “The Offering.”

Admission is free, with donations accepted at the door.

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