Larry’s on-fire piano leads a world-class quintet in a soaring, swinging exploration of matters of the
soul and spirit. Slide Hampton says, “Man, Larry’s playin’ like he’s on a mission!” Joe Ford, McCoy Tyner’s
brilliant altoist, and soulful Ray Codrington, trumpeter for Andrew White’s JFK Quintet, are up front.
Solo, quintet and trio-with-strings settings showcase some of Willis’ best ever composing and arranging.
A stunning piano (the acclaimed Fazioli) plus spacious, crystal-clear acoustics contribute to the best
piano sound I’ve ever captured.
- 1. The Maji (L. Willis - Yanina Music/ BMI)
-Listen to Sample
- 2. Sanctuary (L. Willis - Yanina Music/ BMI)
- 3. Good Friday (L. Willis - Yanina Music/ BMI)
- 4. Brother Ed (L. Willis - Yanina Music/ BMI)
- 5. A Balm In Gilead (traditional - arranged by L. Willis)
-Listen to Full Song
- 6. Thank You, Lord (R. Codrington/ Humpty Music)
- 7. Were You There? (traditional - arranged by L. Willis)
- 8. Fallen Hero (L. Willis - Yanina Music/ BMI, strings arranged by J. Ford)
-Listen to Sample
- 9. Save Your Love For Me (B. Johnson)
- 10. Lonely Woman (H. Silver)
Download From iTunes
here to download this CD from iTunes. Digital files of our CDs
downloaded via iTunes and other third-party sites, though good sounding, were not created in-house
by Mapleshade. Fans who want to hear the full, uniquely exciting audiophile quality of our CDs should
buy original Mapleshade CDs, mastered and manufactured to our exacting specifications.
Review by All About Jazz - New York
Larry Willis, for too long a time unjustly under-recorded as a leader, happily has found a home as
Mapleshade Records’ music director for the past 12 years. The Maryland based label has afforded the
veteran New Yorker a multitude of opportunities to demonstrate his imposing talents as a pianist, composer,
arranger and producer, but Sanctuary is easily the best of these efforts to date. The album of spiritually
motivated music captures Willis at the height of his powers in a variety of situations that graciously
draw the listener into his brilliantly conceived music.
The opening “The Maji”, a cheerful composition for jazz quintet (featuring fellow Fort Apache members
Joe Ford and Steve Berrios on saxophones and drums and DC veterans Ray Codrington and Steve Novosel on
trumpet and bass) immediately makes clear the leader’s considerable capability for creating memorable
melodies in even the most conventional of settings. “Sanctuary” is a beautiful piece by Willis for trio
and the ten-piece Rick Schmidt strings, adeptly arranged by Ford. The pianist masterfully arranged his own
“Good Friday” for soprano sax with piano and strings to portray a mood that is mournful without being
On “Brother Ed”, Willis creatively crafts a satisfying new melody, featuring Ford’s alto and Codrington’s
trumpet, utilizing the familiar chord changes from Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil”. Sanctuary’s centerpiece
is the stirring orchestration by the leader of the traditional hymn “There Is A Balm Gilead” for piano,
strings and the emotive tenor voice of Artie Sherman.
Codrington’s “Thank You Lord”, a “prayer without words”, is another enjoyable outing for quintet, served
well by Novosel’s relaxed bass line and Berrios’ compelling mallet on tom tom rhythm. Willis displays his
skill as a solo pianist on his three-movement arrangement of a gospel song from his youth, “Were You There”.
“Fallen Hero”, the pianist’s moving memorial to his late brother, featuring another of Ford’s sensitive
string arrangements, is a fitting finale to this poignant and affecting date.
Powers of Two is an extraordinary undertaking by Willis (who is joined on the session by longtime Jimmy
Lyons drummer Paul Murphy). Comprised of eight spontaneously improvised duets, the date showcases his
imposing but unpretentious virtuoso technique, as well as an amazing ability to build marvelously musical
structures without the benefit of prepared material.
While the beautiful sound Willis coaxes from his instrument at times recalls McCoy Tyner, Cecil Taylor
and Herbie Hancock, the eight tracks are all uniquely personal - worthy of compositional refinement and
future exploration. Murphy proves to be a fine foil and at times a convincing creative catalyst, helping to
inspire facets of Willis’ talent that are all the more impressive considering their lack of prior
documentation. -Russ Musto
Review by Down Beat: "Best CDs of 2003"
Willis and quintet submerge themselves in all things spiritual on this collection of originals and
traditional hymns. Several cuts feature Willis in a trio setting with the soaring Rick Schmidt strings,
arranged and conducted by sax man Joe Ford. Ever the master of clever chord substitutions, Willis
re-harmonizes each verse of "Were You There," a solo piano performance. -Ed Enrights
Review by Jazz Times
There's nothing musically that Larry Willis hasn't mastered--unless it be Celtic or zydeco. His
eclecticism has run the gamut from rock to opera. He's written symphonic scores and spent seven years
as keyboardist for Blood, Sweat & Tears. But first and foremost, Willis is a jazz musician, as evidenced
by his latest release, Sanctuary. Most of the tunes are by willis; all have religious titles or
religious dedications. but you would never know that thematic conception (with the exception of the
traditional "A Balm in Gilead" which is sung) if you heard the album in a blindfold test. What emerges
is that Willis is an amazingly talented writer for strings, a hard-swinging pianist and a fine creator
of moods as a composer. He has surrounded himself with first-rate talent: Joe ford, various saxes
(also a good string arranger); Ray Coddrington, trumpet; Steve Novosel, bass; Steve Berrios, drums; and
the Rick Schmidt Strings, a nine-piece complement that stays in tune. -Harvey Siders
Review by Audiophile Audition
Willis is the Music Director for this audiophile jazz label for over a decade and has participated in
many of their acclaimed recordings. In this session he displays his compositional and arranging chops in
several different musical environments - solo piano, quintet, with vocalist, and four of the eight tracks
with a nine-piece string section. In common with albums recorded by several different jazz artists recently,
Willis has chosen a spiritual renewal sort of theme here, as suggested by the album title tune. He wanted
to convey the feeling of a place of quiet, solitude and healing. This intent will be clear in some of the
tune titles, but specifically: the Maji is about the epic journey of the three wise men, Were You There is
a Baptist church hymn, and Fallen Hero honors Willis’ late brother - a teacher who was killed by one of
his severely deranged students. Willis’ spirituality theme seems somehow more genuine than some of those
other similar CDs. He plays a Fazioli piano, which seems to have a more fitting tone for jazz than the
typical Steinway. The sonics have great presence and realism, par for the course from Mapleshade.
Tracks: The Maji, Sanctuary, Good Friday, Brother Ed, A Balm in Gilead, Thank You Lord, Were You There?,
Fallen Hero. -John Henry