Larry Willis

Solo Spirit

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With Solo Spirit, Larry Willis fulfilled two needs: the need to record instrumental jazz interpretations of his favorite gospel songs and the need to record an unaccompanied solo piano project. Willis killed two birds with one stone, although doing so proved to be a major challenge. The project got underway in late 1991, when Willis traveled from New York to a Maryland studio and got together with engineer Pierre M. Sprey. Willis and Sprey were happy with the results, and three months later, Sprey was getting ready to master the recordings in New York when his car was broken into and the master tapes were stolen. So another session was scheduled for April 13-14, 1992, and the results of that two-day session are heard on this excellent CD. Unaccompanied, Willis provides introspective, lyrical interpretations of well-known gospel melodies like "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "This Little Light of Mine," and "Let Us Break Bread Together." These songs have been heard on countless gospel recordings, but it isn't every day that one hears them in a jazz setting. The pianist also turns his attention to Duke Ellington's gospel-minded standard "Come Sunday," which works well alongside familiar church melodies. Without question, Solo Spirit is among Willis' finest accomplishments.

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