We tend to classify today’s organists in two schools: the Jimmy Smith/Don Patterson/Jack McDuff brand of the heavy, cookin’ blues and the Larry Young school, focusing on the instrument’s tonal colors and dynamics supplemented with a bit more “outside” playing. With the rise of Larry Goldings, however, we can explode the dichotomy and make room for highly nuanced styles that are just as distinctive.
Goldings has been carving his own place in the pantheon of B3ists since the ‘80s. Honing his chops during his regular gig at Augie’s (now Smoke) in NYC, he came to fame playing piano and organ in the bands of saxman Maceo Parker and guitarists Jim Hall and John Scofield. He’s also the accompanist/arranger-of-choice for numerous jazz vocalists (Madeleine Peyroux, Curtis Stigers) and singer/songwriters (James Taylor, Chiara Civello, Alexi Murdoch). Furthermore, the Larry Goldings Trio is an institution itself, playing together for eighteen years with guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Bill Stewart, honing their sleek style and sophisticated telepathy, which has paved the way for Larry’s contemporaries like Gary Versace and Sam Yahel. Goldings’s skills and tastes know no bounds, and his sly, oblique style make for an appealing and highly rewarding listen.
Fans of the trio may miss his unique organ stylings on the new album, Quartet, but he deserves to explore his other musical strengths (piano, harmonium, Wurlitzer, accordion, and glock)! Sidemen include trumpeter John Sneider, bassist Ben Allison, drummer Matt Wilson, and a guest appearance by Peyroux. Of course, he still serves up top-shelf tunes drawn from a variety of sources. In a press release, he comments: "I am excited by the idea of having a Björk song alongside Gabriel Fauré, next to Chico Buarque, next to an American folk song. Eclecticism is really 'in' now, and I love it, but only when it's not forced... only when it sounds honest." Honesty -- another merit of Goldings's performance and composition. No matter how complex he gets, his playing is earnest -- art without the needless artifice.
Listen to "Dario and Bario," and buy Quartet! (The song was inspired by a clown duo by the same name documented in Clowns, a film for Italian television in 1971 by Federico Fellini, who himself had a fascination with clowns and the circus as a child.)
From his last trio album, Sweet Science, check out “Asimov."
Also, dig the eerie, experimental Rhodesiness of “Foots” and a solo piano rendition of the Gaelic melody “Morning Has Broken,” available only on his website.