Larry Williams, from Seawind to Michael Jackson

Dimanche 11 Janvier 2015

Interview with legendary musician Larry Williams who started his career with Seawind in Hawaii in the 1970’s then became a very sought-after musician. Larry played on most Michael Jackson’s albums and is a long-time collaborator of Al Jarreau.

You play keyboards, saxophone, flute, trumpet, and you do it in various musical styles. What is your preferred instrument? And what is your preferred musical style?

I do not play trumpet- there is another Larry Williams in Los Angeles that plays trumpet that done some recording. I don't have a preferred instrument. I prefer whatever instrument I'm playing at the time. I spent many years and thousands of hours to play them all at a very high level in any musical style. I like music in most any style as long as it's of high quality. If I was forced to choose one style it would be progressive jazz which I find to be the most challenging.

What memories do you have of Seawind debuts in Hawaii? And why did the group disbanded at the peak of its success in 1982?

Many many many great (and some not so) of growing up musically with the band in Hawaii- we started as a club/dance group as we had no original material and just wanted to make music together (and get paid). That got very confining after a few years and we stopped doing dance music and concentrated on originals. We were the only non-Hawaiian local group who got to the national stage I believe.

We disbanded because our lead singer, Pauline Wilson was married to our drummer and primary writer, Bob Wilson and they split up. We remained together without a singer for a few years but it wasn't the same.

There were other talented soft rock bands over there at the time like Kalapana, Lemuria, Summer or Cecilio & Kapono. Did you have connection with them?

We knew each other well- it was a small island scene:) I arranged some horns for Kalapana and came and played sax and keys with C&K at Aloha Stadium in 1976 or so for a crowd of about 80,000. They were pop gods then.

The Seawind horn section was considered as the best one in the music business and you worked with a great deal of luminaries. How did it all start?

I met Jerry Hey and Kim Hutchfroft at Indiana University in 1969 and we hit it off. The 3 of us (and many more musicians from IU) moved to Hawaii and eventually formed Seawind. We shared the same like of good R&B, jazz and funk and improvising. Came to love horn sections and patterned our section style on Tower of Power, Edgar Winter's White Trash, James Brown, Chicago, BS&T and others.

You have recorded with Michael Jackson on most of his albums. How were the recording sessions and the work with him?

I first played on a Michael session for Quincy Jones on The Wiz Broadway musical soundtrack and then Off the Wall, Bad, Thriller and HIStory. Maybe a few other movie tracks, oh and "Ebony and Ivory" with Paul McCartney for Sir George Martin. I spent the most time on "Bad", many months of drum programming, keys, sax and horn section work. Michael was always shy yet charming. All Quincy sessions were the most fun atmosphere and very creative (and paid triple scale!!).

Michael didn't have that much input into what most session musicians were doing with Q except for vocals, I think by far M's best work was with Quincy.

You are also a long-time collaborator with Al Jarreau. How is it to work with him?

Al is the warmest and most generous, creative soul in the world. I love making music with him, he is almost my partner.

Have you ever considered recording as a solo artist?

I've never been overly concerned with being a solo artist - I don't meed to be the center of any project. I'd rather be as small part of a great production than leader of an average one. I did one solo CD for Sony/Japan because they paid me nicely and gave me complete artistic freedom. Larry Williams And Friends - The Beautiful Struggle from 2001 (see on Amazon). It's currently out of print but may be re-release in Europe next year if all goes well.

What are your projects? Is a new Seawind reunion possible?

Here is my website which gives a good overview and most of my current projects:

Seawind did a "Reunion" recording and played live in Japan in 2005. We are working on new songs with performance videos and hope to do some touring next year if all our schedules align.

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Boris Plantier