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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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The Offering

HighNote HCD 7178


1. The Offering
2. TD's Tune
3. Alter Ego
4. Ethiopia
5. The Rock
6. Three-Four Movement
7. Theme from Star Trek
8. Melancholia
Larry Willis - Piano
Eddie Gomez - Bass
Billy Drummond - Drums
Eric Alexander - Tenor sax (tracks 2, 5, 7)

I tend to associate Larry Willis with jazz-rock and jazz-fusion. After all, he played keyboards with Blood, Sweat and Tears in the 1970s. Yet he has also been involved with many other styles of music, including straightforward jazz, hard bop and free jazz. His versatility is almost as wide as that of his idol, Herbie Hancock.

On this album he leads a fairly conventional piano trio, with tenorist Eric Alexander guesting on three tracks. Willis is fond of using the sustaining pedal, which gives his playing an atmosphere of fluidity, and most of his solos are attractively uncluttered. Unfortunately some of the tunes are far from memorable, and seem to float without an anchor. The first two tracks are like this, with The Offering based on an ostinato pattern from Eddie Gomez'z double bass, with a long, fairly formless drum solo from Billy Drummond, while TD's Tune has a long bass solo which, however good Eddie Gomez is, outstays its welcome. Eddie's habit of humming along to his solos is distracting.

Things pick up with Alter Ego - with a melody which is attractive as well as memorable. Ethiopia is a pensive piece with Eddie Gomez on bowed bass, while The Rock is a bright swinger which lifts the album out of its generally downbeat mood. Like the first two tracks, Three-Four Movement is a difficult tune to pick up, but the Theme from Star Trek is more familiar and thus easier to grasp. The album ends with Larry Willis alone at the piano, playing Duke Ellington's Melancholia without adornment.

Eric Alexander adds some excitement to the three tracks where he appears, contributing his twelve-notes-per-second approach. Larry Willis tends to be underrated or even ignored (as he is in some jazz reference books) but this CD regrettably doesn't do him many favours, because of those tunes which seem inaccessible even after several hearings.

Tony Augarde






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