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Larry Young - Contrasts CD (album) cover


Larry Young


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.00 | 2 ratings

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Easy Money
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars After producing two albums that were fairly unified in their musical vision; 1965's Unity with it's dry cerebral post bop, and 1966's Of Love and Peace with it's restrained and tasteful avant-garde approach, Larry Young goes totally eclectic with Contrasts and gives us a strong hint of what he will be doing when he joins the growing psychedelic jazz rock movement in the next couple of years. Most jazz critics prefer the two previous albums with their easy to identify musical styles and abstract intellectual jazz approach, but I think Contrasts is more the true Larry Young album, quirky, strange, unpredictable and totally original.

The album opener, Majestic Soul, is my favorite. This is a hot groove number with loud upfront congas driving the beat. The horns add avant rushes of sound as does Larry with his B3, which seems to be getting louder and more rock like. This is getting very close to the psychedelic African jazz rock that Larry will perform on Lawrence of Newark. This is followed by Evening, a bizarre off-kilter bossa flavored lounge jazz number that veers into Sun Ra territory.

Next up is Major Affair, a high intensity duet featuring Young and drummer Eddie Gladden. It's hard to describe this one, I guess you could call this jazz, but it is more like some kind of avant prog rock with it's bizarre semi-classical melody and modern structure. I've always thought that Young had a big impact on Keith Emerson, and you can really hear it on this one. Tender Feelings follows with some hard bop swing with heavy snare hits that border on rock. All the soloists dig in and produce the hard groove of a late night club and keep things fresh and unpredictable with some colorful avant flourishes.

Means Happiness is an expressive modal drone number ala John Coltrane's Om. The horns scurry and blend in the background while Larry's Hammond shimmers on top. This kind of music always sounds like an ode to the sunrise. The album closes with the ballad standard Wild is the Wind. Strangely wild is this version with Larry's wife Althea providing deep vibrato heavy vocals that seem to come from an older era when jazz singers still had some operatic influence. Larry's organ playing is weird and barely audible till it swells like an ancient ghost in the lower registers and fades again. It's not my favorite, but it's hard not to respect something this odd and peculiar.

This album is great at showing where Young will be heading in the 70s, which is pretty much everywhere: psychedelia, jazz rock, prog rock, African fusion, lounge exotica, and some styles of his own invention.

Easy Money | 4/5 |


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