Saturday, June 30, 2012

Larry Willis This Time The Dream's On Me HighNote 2012

HighNote never fails to disappoint and with the solo jazz piano recording being perhaps the most daring of efforts neither does Larry Willis.

For this impeccable recording we find Willis in the world famous Fazioli piano showroom in Italy. Willis may well be one of the finest pianist some of you may not be familiar with or are but do not read liner notes with the same voracious appetite that I do. The musical resume of Larry Willis includes Jackie McClean, Carmen McRae and the legendary Lee Morgan to drop but a few names. A somewhat personal recording with special inspiration coming from the great Duke Ellington who once referred to his inspiration to compose as the culmination of thousands of dreams, Willis offers up This Time The Dream's On Me.

Instead of offering up the literal standard repertoire utilized for such performances, Willis opts for a well balanced mix of standards as well as a few gems that have either long been forgotten or simply flew under the radar for far too long including the Cole Porter tune "True Love." Original compositions are sprinked in with charming results including the whimsical "Silly Blues" which highlights the often over looked humor that can be found even in the midst of dispare. Who hasn't had their heart broke and then laughed about it later? Another winning Willis composition is "Sanctuary" a tune well over ten years ago but a melody that takes on a different feeling of intimacy in this most organic of settings. Standards including "Lotus Blossom" and "It Could Happen To You" are both delivered with an elegant flair rarely heard today. The classic "My Ship" is a tune about dreams hopes and love and while the story behind the tune is somewhat somber, Willis brings an optimistic bent to this tune from deep within his own heart.

Words like organic, eclectic and intimate could all be used to describe this remarkable recording but none fit near as well as "warmth." There is an emotional warmth to this recording and this is rare. Willis paints with beautiful harmonic colors and his keen lyrical sense of direction and ability to reinvigorate melodic function is masterful. There have been about a dozen solo piano recordings that I have reviewed thus far for 2012 and this release goes in the memorable pile with ease.

5 Stars.

Tracks: This Time The Dream's On Me; Sanctuary; True Love; Lazy Afternoon; A Single Petal Of A Rose; Blues For Marco; It Could Happen To You; Lotus Blossom; Silly Blues; My Ship.

Larry Willis - Solo Piano.