"I'm so excited about this!" It's Lynn Willard on the phone, talking about his latest band. He calls it the Storey/Willard Project.
"When people hear this music, man, they're gonna (expletive deleted.)"
"Jim Storey's song writing is like an undiscovered gem," he says. How did the two meet? "He started coming to the gig at the Turquoise (Willard works there with a loose arrangement of jazzers there on Thursday nights in Pacific Beach) and I asked him about doing a one-on-one. He brought some of his original music to the first session, and I said wow."
"His tunes are just a real gas."
So is Lynn Willard. In fact, Willard's a rare guy. Both he and his jazz piano are well-respected studies in intensity. An original musician and an unapologetic jazz free-thinker, he has a massive and vibrant chord vocabulary, and his solo voice is both fluid and interpretative.
Otherwise, Willard doesn't phone much, and when he does, I'm always glad to hear from him. Consider that the Iowa transplant has been the keyboardist in the greater majority of my favorite local jazz outfits over the past 25 years or more.
I first came to know of Willard during the late '80s when he was in the band Neon, a dazzling electric jazz group fronted by co-founders Bruce Cameron and Hollis Gentry.
"Then, I toured with Cameron right after Gentry and Nathan East left the band."
The short list: Willard has also performed with Gilbert Castellanos in Unido, with Jaime Valle in Equinox, with Dave Scott, Storm with Tommy Aros, and ESP. For six years he played Croce's in the Gaslamp with Glen Fisher con Alma, a charismatic Latin jazz band that commanded the attention of passersby within earshot on Fifth Avenue.
What's in the future for this new group? "The first thing is to get the music recorded. And with all of our travel and gig schedules, it will just have to be in the moment." I ask him about rolling tape during live performances but he has other ideas. Willard wants their debut to be with a studio album rather than live.
"Live can come after the music has been lived in for a while."
Storey/Willard Project debut: Thursday, September 20th, Inn at the Park, for the next KSDS Jazz Party. With Gary Nieves on drums and visiting NYC bassist Vince Guarna.