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LARRY WILLIS HEADLINES AT HARTT IN APRIL

The Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at The Hartt School of the University of Hartford is pleased to present The Larry Willis Quintet in concert on Tuesday, April 5, 2011, at 7:30 PM in Millard Auditorium at the University of Hartford, 200 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford. Tickets are $10 general admission (no discounts are available), and are free to University of Hartford students, faculty, and staff with valid University of Hartford ID. For further information, visit www.hartford.edu/hartt or call the University of Hartford Box Office at 860.768.4228 or 1.800.274.8587.

Mr. Willis also presents two master classes for Hartt students during his visit to Hartford. One of the classes, on Tuesday, April 5, from 12:15 PM to 1:45 PM, in Millard Auditorium on the University of Hartford campus, 200 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford, is free and open to the public for observation.

The Larry Willis Quintet - legendary pianist/composer/arranger Larry Willis, piano (pictured); Joe Ford, alto and soprano saxophone; Steve Davis, trombone; Steve Novosel, bass; and Billy Williams, drums - headlines this concert. The Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz (JMI) All-Star Student Ensemble opens.

Mr. Willis leads his acclaimed Quintet in a program of original compositions, such as his modern classic "To Wisdom, The Prize," and innovative arrangements of jazz classics and American Songbook standards. One of the first protégés of the late saxophone master and Hartt jazz department founder Jackie McLean, Larry recorded the McLean classic "Blue Fable" (High Note) with his Quintet in 2006. A long-time close associate of Herbie Hancock, Willis also frequently performs pieces composed by his friend and colleague, including "A Tribute To Someone" and "I Have A Dream," dedicated to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Willis firmly believes in showcasing the compositional talents of his sidemen (a lesson learned from his late mentor McLean), including Joe Ford's "Today's Nights" and Hartt/JMI faculty member Steve Davis's "A Prayer For New Orleans." In addition, Larry's unique arrangements of American Songbook standards, such as "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top," typically round out the band's program.

In recent years, this exciting Quintet has performed regularly at such venerable New York City (NYC) venues as The Jazz Standard and Smoke Jazz Club, as well as at Blues Alley in Washington, DC. In addition to the formidable frontline of Joe Ford (Mc Coy Tyner, Fort Apache) and Steve Davis (Jackie McLean, Chick Corea) the Quintet also features a dynamic rhythm section of renowned bassist Steve Novosel and young firebrand drummer Billy Williams, affectionately dubbed by Willis as "Billy The Kid."

"Pianist/composer Larry Willis is one of our greatest musical treasures," said Hartt faculty member and Quintet member Steve Davis, himself a chart-topping trombonist. "Growing up in New York City, Larry got his start playing with our department's founder and director, the late great Jackie McLean. He was one of J Mac's very first protégés, recording with him on Blue Note in the early/mid 1960's. Since then, Mr. Willis has played with just about everyone…Woody Shaw, Stan Getz, Carmen McCrae, Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Hugh Masakela, Roy Hargrove's Quintet…you name it! He has earned his reputation as one of the best accompanists in the business. But, it's Larry's original compositions, his unique arranging concept, subtle touch, and keen ability as a bandleader which truly set him apart."

Mr. Willis has toured extensively with Kind Of Blue in tribute to the 50th Anniversary of Miles Davis' classic recording. The group features the recording's original drummer, the legendary Jimmy Cobb. Larry also continues his long association with The Fort Apache Band, founded by Jerry and Andy Gonzales. The group also features Joe Ford, saxophonist with Willis's Quintet and a veteran of the McCoy Tyner Sextet and Big Band.

In recent years, The Larry Willis Trio and Quintet have played to packed houses and garnered rave reviews in NYC and around the world. Steve Davis has enjoyed an ongoing musical collaboration with Willis; they have recorded and performed together since 2002. Their recordings together include Willis's Blue Fable (High Note, 2006), and Davis's Alone Together (Mapleshade, 2004) and Live At Small's (Small's Live, 2009).

For more information about Larry Willis, visit http://www.mapleshaderecords.com/artists/larry_willis.php.

The Hartt School is the comprehensive performing arts conservatory of the University of Hartford that offers innovative degree programs in music, dance, and theatre. Founded in 1920, Hartt has been an integral part of the University of Hartford since its charter merged the then Hartt School of Music, the Hartford Art School, and Hillyer College to create the University in 1957. 2010 marked Hartt's 90th year of providing world class performing arts education to students in Greater-Hartford and around the world. With more than 400 concerts, recitals, plays, master classes, dance performances, and musical theatre productions a year, performance is central to Hartt's curriculum. For more information about The Hartt School, visit www.hartford.edu/hartt.

Pictured: Larry Willis
Photo credit: Eldon Baldwin

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