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  Larry Young
 

 

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He once referred to himself as the Lawrence of Newark, but Larry Young could also accurately be called the Coltrane of keyboardists.  The jazz organist embraced an open-minded philosophy towards his instrument that resulted in a recording career that ranged from traditional soul-jazz to highly modal composition before becoming a pioneer in fusion during the 70s.

Born in 1940, Young, like many of his peers, was heavily influenced by r&b, and he played in bands throughout the 50s.   When Jimmy Smith awakened people to the organ's potential as a jazz instrument, Young looked to him for inspiration, and his first solo LPs were standard for the genre.

With a move to Blue Note, Young began to become taken with the "new thing" of jazz, particularly the work of John Coltrane. He absorbed Coltrane's concepts about playing techniques and transferred them to the organ.  The immediate result was Into Somethin', which found Young paired with Grant Green and Sam Rivers. That set the stage for Unity, which is often said to be Young's masterpiece.

The remainder of the 60s found Young exploring a free-form and rhythmically aggressive style.  He eventually joined with Tony Williams and John McLaughlin to form the original Lifetime, the first jazz-rock fusion band.  Young played a prominent role on Emergency, but it was the only LP he'd record with the group.

During the 70s, Young released only a handful of records.  One, Lawrence of Newark, was virtually forgotten upon release but has been recognized as a forward-thinking, funky project that was ahead of its time.  He then formed Fuel, a funk-based outfit, with guitarist Santiago Torano, singer Laura Logan, drummer Rob Gottfried and bassist Fernando Sanders.  Fuel recorded two albums for Arista in the mid 70s that mainstream jazz critics thrashed as blatantly commercial.  They are best remembered for the breakbeat classic "Turn Out The Lights," recently covered by Frank de Jo Jo.

Young suffered a rapid decline in health in the late 70s, succumbing to pneumonia in 1978.  

Larry Young's Deepest Grooves

Testifying (Prestige, 1960)

Young Blues (Prestige, 1960)

Groove Street (Prestige, 1962)

Into Somethin' (Blue Note, 1964)

Unity (Blue Note, 1965)
Young leads a group of Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw and Elvin Jones into the future of jazz with a set that is hailed as one of the best ever issued on the venerable Blue Note label. "The Moontrane" and "Monk's Dream" establish the tone, as Young's innovative playing reached a depth that many considered the peak of his career.

Of Love & Peace (Blue Note, 1966)

Contrasts (Blue Note, 1967)

Heaven on Earth (Blue Note, 1968)

Mother Ship (Blue Note, 1969)

Lawrence Of Newark (Perception, 1973)

Fuel (Arista, 1975)

Spaceball (Arista, 1976)

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