Review: Neil Larsen – Orbit


Neil Larsen is definitely not a household name when it comes to contemporary jazz unless you’re hardcore, know your history, and have been listening to the music long before the “Wave” signified something other than what you surfed on. An extraordinary keyboardist, who’s spent a great deal of his career making other musicians sound better, this is only Larsen’s fifth release under his own name. In 1978 and 1979 he released Jungle Fever and High Gear for the A&M-Horizon label. He was not to be heard from, as a solo artist again until 1987 and 1989 when, for MCA, he released Through Any Window and Smooth Talk. For those of you old enough to remember, at one time, CBS Sports used Larsen’s “Windsong” from Jungle Fever as a theme song. One constant, over all these years, has been Larsen’s stellar organ playing, which is his predominant voice on all five of his solo recordings and, once again, featured on Orbit. Orbit is a mix of some new and some old. Neil revisits some earlier compositions, such as “Jungle Fever,” “Sudden Samba,” and “Red Desert,” albeit with new, sparser arrangements and instrumentation. Helping out on this recording are a number of old friends, Robben Ford, Jimmy Haslip, Gary Meek, Tom Brechtlein, and Lee Thornburg. This is one of the first releases from a new label started by recording and mastering legend, Bernie Grundman, the sound is excellent; I hope Grundman finds enough success to be able to get Larsen back in the studio for a follow up recording.

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