Larry Koonse may be one of the nicest guys in Jazz but he is a killer guitarist. He has recorded under his own name and toured or recorded extensively with such famous artists such as Bob Brookmeyer, Karrin Allyson, Mel Torme, Joe La Barbera, Billy Childs, Terry Gibbs, Warne Marsh, Johnny Dankworth, Jimmy Rowles, Alan Broadbent, Charlie Haden, Toots Thielmans and many others. At the invitation of Nelson Mandela and UNICEF he was once asked to perform in South Africa. He has been the featured soloist with the LA Philharmonic plus other orchestras and has performed in Carnegie Hall. He sometimes performs with his father Dave Koonse (who is also a jazz guitarist, having played at the ‘Lighthouse’ with John Grass). Larry is a well seasoned and gifted musician and he is always a joy to listen to.
I first saw Larry perform when he came to New Zealand with Joe La Barbera and Tom Warrington. It was Kiwi big band leader Roger Fox who had organised for the trio to come out here and many were grateful that he did. Larry’s guitar playing captivated me throughout the concert and I marveled at how the Tom Warrington trio’s “You must believe in Spring’ could somehow reverence Bill Evens and Lennie Tristano at the same time. Larry’s cool-style is perfectly balanced by the warm tones that he elicits from his guitar and in his playing you can hear hints of Johnny Smith, and even Bill Bauer. I loved every note of it.
After the concert some of the band came out to mingle with the crowd and I got to speak to Larry about his music. Joe La Barbera was there as well, chatting and signing CD covers . Larry is a very friendly guy and we have met once since then and exchanged emails. Making contact with world class musicians in clubs or after concerts is one of the great joys of being a jazz fan and I often wonder if that chance exists in any other musical genre.
I have many recordings featuring Larry and in each of them I hear new subtleties. Sometimes his long lines are unmistakably of the Tristano school (especially in his co-led LA Jazz Quartet),but with the Tom Worrington trio he can sound closer to the style of Herb Ellis or Johnny Smith. The best place to purchase Larry’s music is from the ‘Jazz Compass’ label online. Alternately go to his next gig and purchase the music there. He tells me that he will probably be in in New Zealand in Late May 2011 and I will certainly keep you posted on that.
The clip has Bruce Forman on the left and Larry Koonse on the right as you face the screen.