Inner Crisis [Groove Merchant, 1973]
Inner Crisis by Larry Willis is one of the very finest examples of electric jazz funk from the mid 1970s. With a sidemen that included guitarist Roland Prince, drummer Al Forster, tenor saxophonist Harold Vick and trombonist David Bargeron as well as bassists Eddie Gomez (acoustic) and Roderick Gaskin (electric), Willis assembled a session that was long on composition and tight on the big groove. Willis's long front lines that accentuated deep soul and blues cadences were hallmarks of music that walked the line between tough lean groove and the pulsating rhythm of disco without losing their jazz roots to sterile fusion tropes, thanks in large part to his willingness as a pianist to play as part of an ensemble rather than as a soloist. Tracks such as "153rd Street Theme," with its loping saxophone lines juxtaposed agianst deep groove basslines offer a deeper perspective on the funk; the shimmering modal intensity of the title cut nods to the expansiveness of Miles Davis' In A Silent Way,",and the blissed-out soul of "Journey's End," accentuates the wide open engagement with lyricism that was frequently left out of the electric jazz equation during the period. Added with the other tracks here, they offer a moving, wonderfully conceived and articulated aspect of the music that has been sadly overlooked by all but the most fans of the genre.
[ Thom Jurek]