Born: October 7, 1940 | Died: 1978 Primary Instrument: Organ, Hammond B3
A true innovator on the Hammond B3, Young took a different musical path than any of the other organ masters of his time: Although he started out drawing his major influences from the work of Jimmy Smith and the gospel and blues elements that other players employed, but eventually turned to a more complex, modal approach to the organ with sophisticated harmonic and chordal structure
Larry Young was born on October 7, 1940, and hails from Newark, New Jersey. His background includes study of both classical and jazz music on the piano, but had a natural family bond with the organ. Larry Young, Senior, his father, was an organist and was the first major musical influence on his son. The father, moreover, provided an organ in the family home so that Larry Young, Junior, who had studied piano, could gravitate easily and at his own pace to the organ. In his teen years, Young was relatively inactive musically; but a reawakened interest in the organ, encouraged by his father, propelled Young into music in 1958. After a rhythm and blues apprenticeship, Young gained wider experience with Lou Donaldson; worked around New York and New Jersey with Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley and Tommy Turrentine, among others; and then began heading his own units.
He recorded his first sides for Prestige in 1960 with the offering “Testifying,” followed up with “Young Blues,” the same year, then into “Groove Street,” in ’62. He jumped over to the Blue Note label, and in ’64 put out “Into Somethin.” Young's premier album is thought to be Unity, with Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, and Elvin Jones, which came out in 1965. This is considered to be his best outing, and still holds up as a hard bop organ classic. Young’s work for Blue Note (as both a leader and a sideman) was compiled for Mosaic's limited-edition six- CD box set “The Complete Blue Note Recordings.”
Young was attracted to the novel concept of fusion, he played with Miles Davis in 1969, on the “Bitches Brew,” sessions, worked with John McLaughlin, and then Tony Williams' groundbreaking 'Lifetime' in the early '70's, where he was an important third of that band, one of the first jazz fusion groups. From here he recorded two solo albums for Arista, “Larry Young's Fuel,” (1975) and “Spaceball.” (1976)
Larry Young was only 38 when, in 1978, he checked into a hospital suffering from stomach pains, and died from untreated pneumonia.
He was technically superb, playing pedal bass, and independent left and right hands, but with a lighter touch than previous organists, often preferring to solo pianissimo, sometimes being only slightly audible over the drummer. Young also differed from his contemporaries in that he loved to play duets with the drummer, who was invariably his Newark pal, Eddie Gladden.
Young was the sole major transitional figure responsible for shifting away from the blues-based style of Jimmy Smith and moving toward a free approach, and he revolutionized the instrument comprehensively, in composition, arrangement, and technique.
Source: James Nadal