Larry Young

One of the first organists to develop his own style apart from the dominant influence of Jimmy Smith, Larry Young (1940-1978) had a short but prolific career.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Young originally studied piano before switching to organ. Starting in 1957, he worked with Lou Donaldson, Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley, Grant Green, and Jimmy Forrest in addition to playing with r&b bands.

By 1960, Young was leading a trio with guitarist Thornell Schwartz and drummer Jimmie Smith (no relation to the organist). His first three albums as a leader were made for New Jazz and Prestige during a two-year period, each set having the Larry Young Trio joined by a guest. Testifying has tenor saxophonist Joe Holiday helping out on two songs. Young displays a lighter touch than Jimmy Smith on this set of standards, blues, and ballads. Young Blues includes bassist Wendell Marshall added to the rhythm section. It features the organist swinging hard on some recent jazz originals, “Nica’s Dream” and “Little White Lies.” 1962’s Groove Street features tenor saxophonist Bill Leslie out on a blues-oriented set that also includes “I Found a New Baby” and “Sweet Lorraine.”

Larry Young gradually opened up his style to both the jazz avant-garde and rock. His Unity for Blue Note is considered a post-bop classic. He worked briefly with Miles Davis in 1969 and was a member of the Tony Williams Lifetime in the 1970s, playing next to John McLaughlin. Tragically the innovative Larry Young died from pneumonia in 1978 when he was just 38.