Keyboardist Larry Willis From Blood, Sweat, And Tears Passed Away At 76
Rest In Peace
Jazz musician Larry Willis died due to pulmonary hemorrhage resulting from diabetes complications at Mercy Medical Center near his home in Baltimore, Maryland. He was 76 years old. His death was confirmed by longtime friend and the head of Mapleshade Records, Pierre Sprey.
In his youth, he received several scholarship offers as a basketball player but instead, Willis went to Manhattan School of Music to study music theory and voice. Throughout his career, he worked with various musicians and ultimately joined jazz-rock group Blood, Sweat, and Tears in 1972.
According to Sprey, “He played for Blood, Sweat & Tears for five years and, particularly in live performances, laid down some of rock’s most intense, innovative electric keyboard solos.” In the 1990s, Sprey hired him as music director for Mapleshade Records and he also toured internationally.
Larry Willis was the recipient of the Don Redman award in 2011 and the Benny Golson Jazz Master Award from Howard University in 2012.
Sprey added, “It was easy to see that onstage he was an inspiring accompanist for the great musicians he played with. Not at all obvious to the jazz public was that he was an equally inspiring and selfless producer in the recording studio. From 1992 to 2007, he produced two-thirds of the albums we recorded at Mapleshade, and I was an eyewitness to the dozens of recording sessions he transformed, just with a quiet word here and there, from near-disaster to joyously swinging triumphs.”
There’s no complete list of survivors yet.