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Larry Ham





Softly As in a Morning Sunrise
The Big Balloon
What a Difference a Day Made
Lee Rides Again
Where Is Linda Now?
All God's Chillun Got Rhythm
Easy Living
Brazilian Coffee
A Fond Farewell
My Funny Valentine
Larry Ham (piano) Lee Hudson (bass) Tom Melito (drums)
rec. Brooklyn, New York 2006


Larry Ham is a fine mainstream pianist based in New York. He began his professional over twenty years ago in Lionel Hampton’s band and later joined the Illinois Jacquet Big Band where he remained for five years. A quick look at online biographies discloses that he’s currently pianist in the Earl May Quartet, pianist with alto saxophonist Dave Glasser, and accompanist for vocalist Catherine Russell. Versed as he is in the subtle art of big band submersion, the smaller settings clearly offer many more opportunities for self-expression. Working with a singer can be a tricky business but by all accounts Ham is expert at it. In the trio and solo settings afforded by this latest – but unnumbered – disc we can hear him stretch out even further.

Ham is particularly good at reharmonising tunes, subtly shifting their harmonic centre of gravity in ways that are both playful and instructive. He does it in the very first tune Softly As in a Morning Sunrise and elsewhere makes hay with Latin American rhythms. His playing is literate and articulate and at times displays definite vestiges of classical training – try What a Difference a Day Made.

Lee Rides Again is a Ham original, written for his bass player Lee Hudson, and is a veritable swinger. But Where Is Linda Now? - written for a departed friend – is a touching and thoughtful elegy; it has an almost Russian tristesse without ever sinking into the mawkish regions. My Funny Valentine has very attractive harmonies and a certain degree of pensiveness in Ham’s soloing. He’s well supported by Hudson and Tom Melito – but I found the former’s bass playing over-recorded to distraction.

Perhaps this is the kind of disc sold at gigs – you might want to contact Ham on his website to find out. He’s a fine player – he’d have slotted in to Buck Clayton’s band very nicely indeed.

Jonathan Woolf


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