If Jimmy Smith was "the Charlie Parker of the organ," Larry Young was its John Coltrane. One of the great innovators of the mid- to late '60s, Young fashioned a distinctive modal approach to the Hammond B-3 at a time when Smith's earthy, blues-drenched soul-jazz style was the instrument's dominant voice. Initially, Young was very much a Smith admirer himself. After playing with various R&B bands in the 1950s and being featured as a sideman with tenor saxman Jimmy Forrest in 1960, Young debuted as a leader that year with Testifying, which, like his subsequent soul-jazz efforts for Prestige, Young Blues (1960), and Groove Street, (1962), left no doubt that Smith was his primary inspiration. But when Young went to Blue Note in 1964, he was well on his way to becoming a major innovator. Coltrane's post-bop influence asserted itself more and more in Young's playing and composing, and his work grew much more cerebral and exploratory. Unity, recorded in 1965, remains his best-known album. Quick to embrace fusion, Young played with Miles Davis in 1969, John McLaughlin in 1970, and Tony Williams' groundbreaking Lifetime in the early '70s. Unfortunately, his work turned uneven and erratic as the '70s progressed. Young was only 38 when, in 1978, he checked into the hospital suffering from stomach pains, and died from untreated pneumonia. The Hammond hero's work for Blue Note (as both a leader and a sideman) was united for Mosaic's limited-edition six-CD box set The Complete Blue Note Recordings. ~ Alex HendersonPortions of Content Provided by Rovi Corporation.
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