In March of 2019, Adam Larson found himself at a crossroads: The saxophonist didn’t end up in the doctoral program he’d planned to start, and he received notice of a hefty rent increase for his New York City apartment just after his second child was born.
“My wife and I sat down and wrote down some cities we thought would be cool to live in,” Larson says. Among the list was Kansas City. “I have some friends here, and it’s in the middle of the country.”
Two months later, Larson, along with his wife and two children, moved here. “I really just moved here to get out of New York,” Larson says.
Now, only a few years later, KC has already gained a special place in Larson’s life, so much so that he’s releasing an album to pay tribute to the city this month, With Love, From Kansas City.
The album is a part of a trilogy of albums dedicated to each of the cities—and the powerhouse musicians that reside in them—that have played an important role in Larson’s journey. The first album of the series, With Love, From Chicago, was released earlier this year in February, and the final album of the series, With Love, From New York, will be released in April 2023.
Larson is joined by bassist Ben Leifer and drummer John Kizilarmut to form a tight trio for the album. The trio’s powerful chemistry resulted in an efficient studio session. According to Larson, it only took two and a half hours, straight through, to record the entire album. “One or two takes was enough,” Larson says. “It’s a lot different from the way I recorded my first five records. I was nit-picking everything.”
The album features many of Larsons’ originals along with compositions from prevailing KC jazz musicians: “Chi-Chi” by Charlie Parker, “Beatitudes” by Bobby Watson, and contemporary KC standard “REL” by Peter Schlamb.
The album doesn’t have any heavy edits or overdubs and captures the raw, unfiltered artistry of the composer and saxophonist. Larson showcases his compositional prowess and a wide timbral range across the seven tracks as he switches between tenor, alto and soprano saxophones.
But Larson isn’t the only one showcased. This intimately captured album highlights all of the trio members’ unique voices.
All dimensions of drummer Kizilarmut’s playing are on display in the album, from more nuanced moments as heard in Larson’s “Simple Beauty” to the more fiery, robust playing frequently heard throughout the rest of the album. But regardless of volume or intensity, Kizilarmut’s playing is, without fail, intensely poetic. Ultimately, bassist Leifer is the strong foundation, simultaneously contributing to the interplay that makes this trio so tenacious.
This month, Larson is headed on tour for nineteen performances and seventeen educational clinics. He kicks off the tour on September 2 with his official album release party at The Ship. Among his tour stops is Prairie Village, where he’ll be headlining the city’s annual jazz festival on September 10.
But after the tour, Larson won’t catch much downtime. He’ll be spending his time gearing up for his next album release and tour for With Love, From New York.
GO: With Love, From Kansas City album release, Friday, September 2, 7 pm. The Ship, 1221 Union Ave., KCMO. Larson headlines the Prairie Village Jazz Festival on Saturday, September 10, Harmon Park, W. 77th Place and Delmar Street in Prairie Village.
Nina Cherry is a local jazz historian, journalist, and vibraphonist. Her specific interest is in swing era women in jazz and the Kansas City jazz scene’s rich history. Nina resides in a former speakeasy from the Pendergast neighborhood with her dog, Daisy.
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