Larry Willis


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Often associated with classical music, the cello hasn't played a prominent role in jazz. Nonetheless, cellists ranging from Erik Friedlander to Missy Hasin have demonstrated that it has tremendous possibilities as a jazz instrument. And on Sunshower, cellist Kash Killion does his part to help Larry Willis deliver another excellent CD. Willis gives Killion plenty of room to stretch out, and that's a very good thing, because not only does Killion have a gorgeous sound, he is also an incredibly lyrical and expressive player. Willis and Killion enjoy a strong rapport throughout the album, which employs Steve Novosel on acoustic bass, Paul Murphy on drums, and Steve Berrios on percussion. Sunshower isn't the sort of album in which the musicians spend their time showing us how fast they can play Sonny Rollins' "Oleo" and John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" -- this post-bop CD is about expression and emotion rather than pyrotechnics, and Willis and Killion are at their most introspective on performances of Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes" and Kenny Barron's "Sunshower." While these jazz standards have been recorded many times, it isn't every day that they become vehicles for inspired acoustic piano/bowed cello interaction. Equally compelling are soulful versions of Willis' "Poor Eric" (a somber lament for reedman Eric Dolphy) and Jackie McLean's "Melody for Melonae," which Mapleshade incorrectly lists as "Little Melanie"). But "Melody for Melonae" is definitely the correct title of this piece, which appeared on McLean's 1962 Blue Note date Let Freedom Ring -- and which shouldn't be confused with the altoist's 1955 recording "Little Melonae" (although he wrote both songs for his daughter Melonae McLean). Willis detours into mildly avant-garde territory on the African-influenced "Wah-No-Nahné," but, for the most part, the musicians stick to inside playing on this consistently thoughtful CD.

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