Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Young, Larry Jr. (Khaled Yasin)

Organist Larry Young expanded the possibilities of the Hammond B3 beyond the trio into fusion and beyond, prompting Jack McDuff to dub him "the Coltrane of the organ." A collaborator with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew, Young explored the harmonic capabilities of the instrument in new ways, constructing a wide range of sounds with drawbar alterations and quick handwork.

Larry Young was born on October 7, 1940 in Newark, New Jersey. His parents were Larry Young Sr. and Agnes McCoy. Young Senior was an active musician and a professional organist who encouraged his son’s playing at the family piano. Young Junior attended Newark's Arts High School, where he sang bass in a vocal group called “The Challengers.”

Young took classical lessons from pianist Olga von Till through his teenage years. The piano was Young's primary instrument until his father opened up a nightclub in Newark called the Shindig. The Shindig had its own house organ, where Young began his long association with the instrument.

By the late 1950s, Young had become quite proficient on the organ, and began working around Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey with different r&b bands. Larry Young began to use the "junior" tag to his name professionally to avoid confusion, as both he and his father were performing around the same local clubs and hot spots. In 1960, Young made his debut recording for the Prestige label. The album, Testifying, featured Young on organ, Thornel Schwartz on guitar, and Jimmie Smith on drums. This album featured several noteworthy songs including the title track. The next year Young recorded with well-known tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest, who had a number one hit in 1952 with his cover of the song “Night Train.”

By 1962, Young was still recording for Prestige having released the album Groove Street which featured the same personnel as Testifying but added tenor saxophonist Bill Leslie. This trio toured Europe that same year, minus Leslie, who stayed in the United States.

In 1963, Young appeared on Gildo Mohones’s album I’m Shooting High, and vocalist Etta Jones’s album Love Shout, both of which were released on Prestige. Young’s stock value as an organist began to gain improve substantially in 1964. He appeared on guitarist Grant Green’s Blue Note album Talkin’ About, which also featured drumming giant Elvin Jones. This album featured the song “Talkin’ About J.C.," a tribute to tenor great John Coltrane.

Young himself signed with Blue Note in 1964, enabling him to enlist the services of many of the most talented and influential figures in jazz during that time. Young released Into Somethin’ in 1964 and it featured Grant Green, Elvin Jones, and Sam Rivers on tenor saxophone.

Young also appeared on Green’s 1964 release, Street of Dreams, which highlighted Young with Elvin Jones once again and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson. In 1965, Young appeared on two Grant Green releases, I Want To Hold Your Hand, which featured Elvin Jones along with tenor player Hank Mobley, and His Majesty King Funk, released on the Verve label.

That same year, Young released his heralded album Unity on Blue Note. This album, considered by many to be one of the finest jazz organ albums ever recorded, featured Young playing highly expressive harmonies and blistering modal solos. The album featured the song “The Moontrane," which featured the album personnel of Elvin Jones on drums, Woody Shaw on trumpet, and tenor giant Joe Henderson. In 1965, Young also visited Europe once again playing piano on Nathan Davis’s album Happy Girl.

During 1965, Young, Jones, and Green played around the New York area very frequently and still performed with trumpeter Woody Shaw, who later went on to join Horace Silver along with Joe Henderson. By 1966, Young had released one of his last albums for Blue Note entitled Of Love and Peace, which featured altoist James Spaulding and drummer Jerry Thomas. That same year, he was awarded the Down Beat magazine award of talent deserving wider recognition on the organ in the 1966 Critic’s awards.

With fusion entering the musical realm, Young was just as an integral part as his more famous counterparts, Miles Davis and Tony Williams. Young appeared on Davis’s album Bitches Brew, playing electric piano on the song “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down.”

Young’s association with drummer Tony Williams and guitarist John McLaughlin formed the nucleus of Tony Williams’ newly formed fusion trio Lifetime. The group recorded and released the double album Emergency, which featured the song “Spectrum," and the title track “Emergency." In 1969, Young also jammed and played with guitar legend Jimi Hendrix. Several bootlegs exist of this group, which also featured bassist Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

Young continued to play with Williams’ Lifetime and appeared on the 1970 recordings One Word and 1971’s Ego, both released on Polydor Records. Young also played on McLaughlin’s 1970 album Devotion, along with Buddy Miles on drums. In 1972, McLaughlin and guitarist Carlos Santana teamed up for their Columbia release Love, Devotion, Surrender, featuring the John Coltrane composition “A Love Supreme," with Young on organ. Young toured with the guitarists in support of the album and appeared on the 1973 recording Live In Chicago, which also featured drummer Billy Cobham.

By the mid 1970s, the organist was working with drummer Lenny White’s group, and recorded several albums as a leader ,including the 1976 Arista Records album Spaceball, which featured guitarist Larry Coryell on several songs. Young’s recordings for Arista didn’t sell well, leaving the musician with a rather twisted view of the record industry since musicians of his caliber were being outsold by far less capable performers. In 1978, Young signed a recording contract with Warner Brothers and had plans of releasing new material. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t happen as he returned from California he began to have stomach problems. Upon being treated in the hospital he died suddenly on March 30, 1978 in New York City from what has been called pneumonia, although the actual causes of his death remain unclear.

Young left behind a very rich legacy on the organ, expanding its harmonic and melodic capacities as much as, if not more than Jimmy Smith. He leaves behind a son, Tyrone Stokes, now known as Larry Young III, and three daughters, who live in New Jersey: Aziza Ford, Fatima Ford and Sakena Young-Scaggs.

Young was a practicing Muslim, and is sometimes listed under his Muslim name of Khaled Yasin on recordings.

Select Discography

As Larry Young

Testifying (Prestige, 1960)

Into Somethin’ (Blue Note, 1964)

Unity (Blue Note, 1965)

Of Love and Peace (Blue Note, 1966)

Mother Ship (Blue Note, 1969)

Spaceball (Arista, 1976)

With Miles Davis

Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1969)

With Tony Williams Lifetime

Emergency (Polydor, 1969)

One Word (Polydor, 1970)

Ego (Polydor, 1971)

With John McLaughlin & Carlos Santana

Love, Devotion, Surrender (Columbia, 1972)

With Grant Green

Talkin’ About (Blue Note, 1964)

Street of Dreams (Blue Note, 1965)

I Want To Hold Your Hand (Blue Note, 1965)

His Majesty King Funk (Verve, 1965)

Contributor: Jared Pauley