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GARY WILLIS

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


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Gary Willis picture
Gary Willis biography
Gary Willis is a bass player from the US known mostly for his work with Tribal Tech from 1984 to 2000, as well as several solo albums. On Gary's most recent album, 'Actual Fiction', Kirk Covington and Libert Fortuny make up the other two thirds of his power jazz-funk trio. Gary has also worked with other stellar fusion musicians such as Wayne Shorter, Dennis Chambers and Alan Holdsworth.

One of Gary's earliest musical performances was a solo vocal and guitar rendition of 'We May Never Pass This Way Again', which he performed for the 1974 graduating class at Pine Tree High School in Longview Texas. From Pine Tree High School, Gary moved on to East Texas State University (now called Texas A&M at Commerce TX) where he joined the school's jazz combo with other future pro jazz performers such as Nate Vinson who went on to form the avant drumnbass project known as beep squawk. Gary was still a guitarist at this point, but the ETSU combo already had a guitarist named Bruce Hodge who wasn't going to readily give up the instrument that had helped him meet so many young ladies. Since the group had no bassist, it only made since for Gary to switch to bass, thus a future fusion star bassist was on his way.

While at ETSU Gary also met future acid jazz sub-star John Sanders, who would go on to form several bands of his own such as New Power Soul, Memphis Mystics and Zazerac. While at school, Willis and Sanders recorded an avant-garde improvisation on 8-track tape which Gary used for his term paper on John Cage and the use of pure sound in music.

Gary is also a published author with several books out on bass playing. Gary's favorite expression is 'What you talkin about Willis', from an old TV sitcom.

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GARY WILLIS discography


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GARY WILLIS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.40 | 5 ratings
No Sweat
1997
4.00 | 7 ratings
Bent
1998
4.00 | 3 ratings
Actual Fiction
2007
4.33 | 3 ratings
Retro
2013
4.14 | 5 ratings
Larger Than Life
2015

GARY WILLIS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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GARY WILLIS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Bent by WILLIS, GARY album cover Studio Album, 1998
4.00 | 7 ratings

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Bent
Gary Willis Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by JazzFusionGuy

4 stars Gary Willis presents nine jazzy and funkified pieces all his own and two he co-wrote with bandmates. The personnel here are Tribal Tech's bassist Willis, Scott Kinsey on keys, and Kirk Covington drumming on two tracks. Dennis Chambers provides sweet drums on eight tracks. Reeds are Steve Tavaglione wailing on EWI, (electronic wind instrument), tenor and soprano sax and clarinet. Bob Berg also guests playing one mean tenor sax on three tracks.

Imagine Tribal Tech with no Scott Henderson pyrotechnics but Willis stretching out more so on the bass with great reed work heating things up -- and you have Bent. It was this album that helped me realize this -- much of the great stuff of Tribal Tech's was written or co-written by Willis. He's an amazing bassist as well as composer extraordinaire.

This is a laidback release in many places without any helter skelter race to follow lightning axe chops. Things can and do get Miles Davis be-boppin' wild as on "Hipmotize" and Weather Report-hot as on "Armageddon Blues". Kinsey and Berg break bad doin' hot runs in sync as well as breakin' off to stretch. "Big Time" ain't no sleeper either with Kinsey nearing that Chick Corea grand piano-voiced frenetic finesse. Berg wastes no breath freefalling into a Steve Coleman/ Courtney Pine/ David Binney abandon. Jazz is not dead. Willis is simply awesome in his powerhouse locomotion driving it all to the edge.

Willis can groove phat-fast or slip into the smooth and even echoes that Manring quirkiness when he feels the urge. "Before Your Eyes" lulls you into dreams as Kinsey and Tavaglione seem to call on a Zawinul/ Shorter muse that suddenly flies away into silence. Willis intros with an amazingly complex bass piece to open "Emancipation" where steel drum keys and harmonica EWI hail back to an upbeat Weather Report, porch swing daze that fade away into . . . ahhh. Nice job, Gary and crew. Recommended.

 Larger Than Life by WILLIS, GARY album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.14 | 5 ratings

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Larger Than Life
Gary Willis Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by WFV

4 stars This is an excellent contemporary fusion record from a criminally underrated artist. If true fans of jazz+rock connect enough dots, their exploits will eventually lead them to Tribal Tech's duo of guitarist Scott Henderson and bassist Gary Willis. Both of them solo and together explode out of your speakers, and this is Willis' fourth solo outing. This record is on the funk end of the fusion spectrum. There are electronic beats here and there like in some John Scofield albums, but it's obvious on every song this is meant as a collective statement. I'm not a Willis or Tribal Tech freak by any means (I only own Actual Fiction from Willis and a few pretty good discs from Tribal Tech) but like FZ says "You know good stuff when you hear it". This is good stuff, definitely material that can be listened with a few suds a few friends and a smoking grill.
Thanks to easy money for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead for the last updates

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