“Gray has a strong melodic sense and technique, somewhat reminiscent of Dave Holland. Focus on his playing… he’s always up to something interesting and musical.” Downbeat Magazine
“An extraordinarily expressive player.” Lloyd Sachs, Chicago Sun-Times
“… (Larry Gray) has his own sound and original feeling – he sounds like himself and that’s the highest compliment I can give to any musician.” Bobby Hutcherson
“One of the most gifted all around musicians I’ve ever met… his technique is phenomenal, mind-boggling. Every chance I get I go and hear Larry play.” Joseph Guastafeste, Principal Double Bass, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
“In short, a fine album from all concerned; besides the sterling work from the leader (Larry Coryell) and drummer Paul Wertico, kudos should go to bassist Larry Gray, who plays out of his skin on the opening exchanges of “Autumn Leaves” and hardly descends from that level for the rest of the disc.” Nate Dorward Cadence, February 2004
This trio outing with Chicago bassist-composer Larry Gray, guitarist John Moulder and drummer Charles Heath yields some provocative material like the angular, Ornette-ish “No Doubt” and the distortion-laced romp “E-E-E-lectricity.” Luxurious, harmonically rich ballads “Monk and Duke” and “Reflect” show Gray’s more introspective side while expansive numbers like “Soffia’s Dream” and “Far and Away” recall Pat Metheny’s Bright Size Life. Gray also delivers some expressive solo bass pieces in “Who Is the Drummer?” and “Meditation in D.”Bill Milkowski, JazzTimes Magazine
“….clearly has developed a musical and composition voice all his own.” Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune
“An extraordinarily expressive player.” Lloyd Sachs, Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago veteran bassist Larry Gray offers airy, intimate chamber trio sonics on his latest recording as a leader, a warmly recorded showcase for his smart post-bop compositions and imaginative solo work. The album is marked by sophisticated arrangements, gorgeous acoustic and electric string textures by Gray and guitarist John Moulder, and sensitive trap-set work by Charles Heath IV. The tunes are sturdy and the playing inspired.
The trio, turning in work occasionally reminiscent of the early albums of Pat Metheny, opens tricky with the speedy melody of “No Doubt,” built on the changes of the standard “You Stepped Out Of A Dream.” It sets the pace-and standard of excellence-with nicely matched sonorities and conversant interplay, exemplified by the trading-fours section and the way the tune subsequently opens up.
Other highlights of this hefty set of well-conceived music include the start-stop ballad “Monk And duke,” apropos of both titular influences; the unaccompanied bass piece “Song Of The Innocents,” with Gray incorporating harmonics and below-the-bridge plucking; “Who Is The Drummer?” and “Meditation In D”; the bossa “One Look,” topped with the leader’s bowed melody, and rambling, fusion-edged closer “E-E-E-lectricity.” Philip Booth, Downbeat Magazine
Larry Gray’s 1, 2, 3 … showcases several aspects of the bassist’s diverse career. The Chicago-based virtuoso—who’s worked alongside jazz stars from Ramsey Lewis to Larry Coryell; performed with the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Chicago Symphony Orchestra; and become a prominent college clinician and recitalist on both bass and cello – composed all 13 tracks for this trio outing with guitarist John Moulder and drummer Charles Heath.
“No doubt,” the album’s energetic opener, offers intoxicating interwoven lines by Moulder and Gray, and features all three players as soloists. The mood downshifts from swing to chamber jazz on the subsequent “Family,” punctuated by Heart’s Jimmy Cobb-like cymbal work. Gray even adds solo bass pieces- “Song of the Innocents,” “Meditation in D,” “Who is the Drummer?”-that showcase his fingerstyle playing and range of ideas.
As its title suggest, the recording also includes duo pieces like “More Than a Few,” a conversational, all-acoustic dialogue between Gray Moulder. “One Look,” a Brazilian-influenced acoustic duet, shows off Gray’s outstanding bow work. Tow of the disc’s longest pieces are placed near the end, but each displays the trio’s imaginative interplay. The 11-minute “Soffia’s Dream” is reminiscent of guitarist Pat Metheny’s breakthrough 1976 release Bright Size Life (with bassist Jaco Pastoruis and drummer Bob Moses), and the eight-minute finale, “E-E-E-lecrticity,” was written by Gray at age 16. Regarding the latter tune, he admits in the album’s liner notes to having a “love-hate relationship with it for the last 38 years/” Perhaps this standout finale provides figurative as well as literal closure.
Larry Gray is probably best known throughout Chicago as the first-call bassist who has accompanied thousands of well-known jazz musicians throughout the world. For years he has helped to make Ramsey Lewis and hundreds of other jazz musicians sound and play to the best of their ability. That’s why it is all that more impressive that the new jazz record label, Chicago Sessions, has just released a jazz trio recording by Larry Gray, entitled 1,2,3.
Not only is this the first-ever release by the Chicago Sessions label; it is also the first time that Larry Gray has recorded as part of a guitar trio. If you have been in the Chicago area over the past twenty-plus years you would have seen Gray perform with numerous guitar trios, perhaps the most well-known being the Larry Coryell Trio, so one wonders why he waited so long to record with his own? After listening to 1,2,3, one is glad he didn’t wait any longer.
The disc begins with the track “No Doubt,” and just like all of the compositions on this recording, it was written by Gray. The interaction that you will hear on this recording is evident from the first eight bars of the first tune. Charles Heath on drums plays with a contemporary but not overwhelming style. In a guitar based trio it is important to work and interact with the other instruments, but not overtake the space that is naturally available. Heath plays perfectly within the creativity of the group.“More Than a Few” is a duet between Moulder on acoustic guitar and Gray on bass. And it took a more than a few listening just to take in the melodic soloing and phrasing of both Gray and Moulder. The way in which Gray interacts behind the guitar solo gives the listener the illusion that they are hearing more instrumentation than just a bassist.
“One Look” features Gray’s cello playing with Moulder’s acoustic guitar. A beautiful melody based around a bossa nova rhythm, you can hear the colors that could be added to this melody line and chord changes by a larger group. On this track and throughout the recording, Moulder’s solos are melodic, sensitive when the
music calls for it, aggressive when necessary, and always musical. This is more than just a trio recording put out by one of Chicago’s finest bassists. It is a journey through an
accomplished musician’s musical life. Combining expert compositions, superb interaction and depth of creativity, 1,2,3 is a journey through the many different styles and layers of Larry Gray’s playing. It is easy to hear that he is an expert at them all. Mike Jeffers, Chicago Jazz Magazine
Chicago Sessions is a new record label taking a new approach to releasing modern jazz. The label will release twelve discs over the next twelve months, each featuring a different Chicago jazz artist. They promise to feature the established to the undiscovered.” These discs are available through subscription only. Subscribers will receive a new CD each month. To kick off their unique series, Chicago Sessions chose bassist Larry Gray. Gray has long been established on the Chicago jazz scene, performing with a multitude of headliners as they’ve passed through town. His accomplishments range for the jazz CDs he’s previously released to pit work on the show The Color Purple. This latest release showcases Gray as composer, accompanist and soloist. He drives the guitar trio with power tempered by delicacy. His solo work is at the highest level-including some masterful unaccompanied performance and tender work with the bow. Gray’s compositions are inventive and modern.
All of the music on 1, 2, 3 … was written by Gray. Some of the most unique of these compositions are solo bass works such as “Song of the Innocents,” “Meditations in D,” “ Who Is The Drummer?,” and “Portals,” These pieces display staggering technique and musicality. Gray’s bow work is particularly lyrical. He doesn’t restrain these techniques to solo pieces. Gray’s bowed solo on the Latin flavored “Far and Away” is perfectly appropriate, if a bit on an unorthodox choice. “One Look” has Gray delivering the melody with the bow over Brazilian styled acoustic guitar. Guitarist John Moulder compliments Gray well in the duet performance. The two also play off each other on “More Than A Few.” They play the melody of the medium up swing tune in unison and each takes a swingin’ solo.
There are also more traditional sounding tunes on the disc. “No Doubt” is an up tempo swing number, heavy with blues emphasis. The trio smokes on this one, including a riotous round of trading eights with drummer Charles Heath IV “Soffia’s Dream” alternates Afro Cuban Latin with swing and again features Heath. “Monk and Duke” present the trio in a slow swing tempo, with a traditional feel. More eclectic and interactive is the up tempo “E-e-e-lectricity.” There is a collective improvisation feel to this track. Finally, the band shows its tender side on two gentle ballads. “Family” is set in a delicate waltz tempo, while “Reflect” is in a more standard ballad feel.
There’s a lot to Larry Gray’s 1, 2, 3 … More then can rightfully be discussed in a single review. Gray is a unique voice on the bass, full of musicality and inventive ideas. His compositions are at times energetic and powerful, at times reflective and somber.