Larry Gray

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Larry Gray
Birth nameLawrence Waterman Gray
BornBlue Island, Illinois, U.S.
GenresJazz, classical
InstrumentsDouble bass, cello
Associated actsLarry Coryell

Larry Gray is a Chicago musician known for his compositions and skill on the double bass and cello. His primary teachers were Joseph Guastafeste, longtime principal bassist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and cellist Karl Fruh.[1]


Gray was born to Pauline Waterman and Lawrence Gray. He has been married to Karolyn R. Kuehner since 1990. They have one daughter, Soffia H. Kuehner Gray.

Music style[edit]

Originally a jazz guitarist, Gray switched to double bass and developed a reputation as a first-call sideman. Within a short time, he began to work at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago, where he appeared with drummer Wilbur Campbell and pianist Willie Pickens.

Throughout the years he has worked with George Coleman, Lee Konitz, Bobby Hutcherson, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Fortune, Ira Sullivan, Junior Mance, David "Fathead" Newman, Charles McPherson, Branford Marsalis, Benny Golson, Jackie McLean, Sonny Stitt, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Al Cohn, Eddie Harris and Les McCann. In addition, he has collaborated with guitarists Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass, and Tal Farlow, as well as the drummers Ed Thigpen and Jack DeJohnette, and trumpeters Donald Byrd and Harry "Sweets" Edison, among others.

Gray has studied classical music extensively. His principal teachers were Joseph Guastafeste, longtime principal bassist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and cellist Karl Fruh. He received bachelor's and master's degrees in Cello Performance from Chicago Musical College.


He tours extensively, performing at jazz festivals and clubs, including the Umbria Jazz Festival, the Montreal International Jazz Festival, The Montreaux Detroit Festival, the ECM Festival, the Poznan Jazz Festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, the Havana Jazz Festival, Rio São Paulo Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival, Johannesburg International Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Hollywood Bowl, Village Vanguard, the Blue Notes in Tokyo, Nagoya, New York and Milan, Ronnie Scott's in London, Zawinal's Birdland in Vienna, and the Ravinia Festival, with such jazz luminaries as Marian McPartland, Clark Terry, Nancy Wilson, Frank Morgan, Roscoe Mitchell, James Moody, Larry Coryell, Louis Bellson, Barry Harris, Ramsey Lewis, Dorothy Donegan, Monty Alexander, Frank Wess, Joe Williams, Doc Severinsen and The Tonight Show Band, and Kenny Drew Jr.

Recording and performing[edit]

Gray is an arranger and composer whose discography includes Solo + Quartet on Premonition Records; Gravity, a solo bass recording, and One Look, featuring his piano trio's performances of original compositions, both on Graywater Records; the Ramsey Lewis Trio recordings Appassionata, Time Flies, and With One Voice; the Ramsey Lewis and Nancy Wilson collaborations Meant to Be and Simple Pleasures, all on Narada/Virgin Records. He arranged and produced the album Django by Ferro by Mike Ferro.

His original composition for double bass and guitar, Five Movements, was commissioned and performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensemble at Symphony Center in Chicago. His album Larry Gray 1,2,3 ..., featuring his guitar trio's performances of his original compositions, on Chicago Sessions Records, was released in December 2008.

He has recorded with Curtis Fuller, Ira Sullivan, Lin Halliday, Jodie Christian, Willie Pickens, Nicholas Payton, Randy Brecker, Bunky Green, Bob Moses, Laurence Nugent, John Williams and Bohola, Linda Eder, Dennis DeYoung, Jim Peterik, Peter Cetera, and Michael Smith.

He appeared on the PBS series Legends of Jazz hosted by Ramsey Lewis. He is a first-call studio musician and his playing can be heard on many commercial radio and television jingle and studio projects.

Gray has been featured as a solo recitalist on both bass and cello at various universities and venues throughout the midwest. His recitals combine jazz, classical, and improvised music.

He was the featured bassist in Amistad, produced by the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He was principal bass of Civic Orchestra of Chicago and has served as a substitute with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He collaborated with choreographer Lauri Stallings and dancers from Hubbard Street Chicago and the Joffrey Ballet, developing an original work for solo double bass and dancers.


In 2007, he joined the full-time jazz faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign where he is Assistant Professor of Double Bass in Jazz. He previously held positions at DePaul University, where he taught for nineteen years, and also at Northern Illinois University and the American Conservatory of Music. He participates as a clinician in high school and college jazz festivals.


Album Performer Date Label
Three Equals One[2] Larry Gray Trio 2011 Chicago Sessions
Made in Chicago Jack DeJohnette with Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill 2015 (recorded 2013) ECM
1, 2, 3... Larry Gray Trio 2009 Chicago Sessions
Chet in Chicago Chet Baker 2008 Enja
Blue Quest Zvonimir Tot Trio 2006 Grove Art
Visions of the Moment Betty Joplin 2005 Preserved Moments
With One Voice Ramsey Lewis 2005 Narada
Gravity Solo 2004 Graywater
Russian Romance Ella Leyla 2004 B-Elite
Time Flies Ramsey Lewis Trio 2004 Narada/EMI
Up Jumped Spring Curtis Fuller 2004 Delmark
Delicate Hour Patty Morabito 2003 LML
Simple Pleasures Ramsey Lewis with Nancy Wilson 2003 Narada
The Power Trio: Live in Chicago Larry Coryell 2003 HighNote
Meant to Be Ramsey Lewis with Nancy Wilson 2002 Narada
We Are Not Machines Bradley Parker-Sparrow 2001 Southport
Django by Ferro Mike Ferro 2000 Denwa
Evening at Sea Henry Johnson Quartet with Kenny Drew Jr. 2000 Chiaroscuro
A Jazz Christmas Willie Pickens with Nicholas Payton 2000 Southport
The Windy Gap Laurence Nugent 2000 Shanachie
Appassionata Ramsey Lewis Trio 1999 Narada
Live at the Floating Jazz Festival The Johnny Frigo Quartet 1999 Chiaroscuro
Pins and Needles Frank Catalano with Randy Brecker 1999 Lake Shore
It's About Time Willie Pickens 1998 Southport
Two for Two Laurence Nugent 1998 Shanachie
Christmas in the Aire Mannheim Steamroller 1995 American Gramaphone
Rain or Shine Jodie Christian with Roscoe Mitchell 1994 Delmark
Where or When Lin Halliday with Ira Sullivan 1994 Delmark
Solo and Quartet Larry Gray Quintet (Larry Gray, composer/arranger) 1994 Premonition
Experience Jodie Christian 1992 Delmark


  1. ^ University of Illinois at Chicago biography page for Larry Gray Archived 2009-03-21 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^