Larry Willis

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Larry Willis
Background information
Birth nameLawrence Elliott Willis
Born(1942-12-20)December 20, 1942
Harlem, New York City, U.S.
DiedSeptember 29, 2019(2019-09-29) (aged 76)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
GenresJazz, jazz fusion, Afro-Cuban jazz, bebop, post-bop, avant-garde jazz
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Years active1965–2019

Lawrence Elliott Willis (December 20, 1942 – September 29, 2019) was an American jazz pianist and composer. He performed in a wide range of styles, including jazz fusion, Afro-Cuban jazz, bebop, and avant-garde.

Willis was born in New York City. After his first year studying music theory at the Manhattan School of Music he began performing regularly with Jackie McLean. After he graduated he made his first jazz recording, McLean's Right Now! in January 1965, which featured two of Willis' compositions. His first recording of any type, however, was as a singer with the Music and Arts Chorale Ensemble, performing an opera by Aaron Copland under the direction of Leonard Bernstein. He decided to concentrate on jazz because of the difficulties African-American musicians had in finding work in concert music.

Throughout his career he performed with a wide range of musicians, including several years as keyboardist for Blood, Sweat & Tears (beginning in 1972). He spent several years as pianist for trumpeters Nat Adderley and Woody Shaw as well as long and productive tenures with Roy Hargrove and with Jerry Gonzalez and his Fort Apache Band. His late recording with Paul Murphy, Exposé, demonstrated the fusion principles of bebop and avant-garde jazz. His composition "Sanctuary" began exploring works employing strings.[1] After a successful performance in Frank Lloyd Wright's Annie Pfieffer Chapel at Florida Southern College's Child of the Sun Jazz Festival he was commissioned to write a full-scale orchestral work for jazz trio and orchestra. He worked with Hugh Masekela on a South African Suite of music and interpreted Miles Davis' work. He was in the Round About Midnight tour of Miles Davis' music. He received the Don Redman award in 2011, and the Benny Golson Jazz Master Award at Howard University in 2012.

He died of an aneurysm in Baltimore at the age of 76.[2]



  1. ^ Wynn, Ron. Larry Willis Artist Biography. AllMusic.
  2. ^ "In Memoriam: Larry Willis (1942–2019)". 4 October 2019.
  3. ^ "Steal Away". Valley Entertainment. Retrieved 17 June 2010.
  4. ^ All Music

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