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Larry Conger plays with Carolina Jazz Society at their April 7th concert.

posted Feb 14, 2013, 9:41 AM by Row Nylund   [ updated Aug 28, 2013, 1:58 PM by Stephen Hait ]
Larry Conger
Larry and the Carolina Jazz Society go back a long way. He had a strong musical influence on our band and has been a big factor in making the club an enduring institution (we are the oldest continuously active Jazz club east of the Mississippi and one of the oldest in the nation). When Larry  moved to SC and wanted to start the “Two Rivers Jazz Band”,  he found the best musicians were already playing together at our concerts. He recruited most of our guys and the group began playing gigs around South Carolina and neighboring states. The Two River’s Jazz Band made some LP’s and Larry was instrumental in getting nationally known musicians down for some nice recordings. 

Larry plays a powerful cornet that would make jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden proud (reportedly Bolden could be heard all the way across Lake Ponchtatrain). But Larry really honed his jazz chops playing cornet with Turk Murphy at EarthQuake MaGoon’s in San Francisco. He says that Turk was a fine musician and a great entertainer who was not content playing standard repetitions of the old war horses. Turk knew and enjoyed the old standards as well as anyone but he insisted on including some of the beautiful verses that seldom get heard. And he wrote some fascinating songs as well.

Larry comes by his sound naturally because he grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during the “West Coast Revival” which began when several New Orleans musicians were brought out of retirement and given an  opportunity to play in California. Bunk Johnson, in particular, was very influential. He played with Buddy Bolden in 1900 and took over the band when Buddy collapsed. Bunk had been retired for 40 years when some jazz lovers found him in New Orleans, helped get dental work and brought him to California for a series of performances and recordings. And you can hear that influence when Larry plays.

Larry has a degree in music from Ithaca College in New York and among other things musical, Larry played violin with the Greenville Symphony for many years. But the best evaluations come from fellow musicians. They love playing with him because he is not only a fine musician but a true gentleman. And in Dick Goodwin’s words, playing with Larry is like going to a graduate seminar on Jazz. 

There is a nice article with a lot more information on Larry in the June 2000 issue of the Mississippi Rag if you can find a copy.
When I asked Larry what person most inspired him, I expected to hear the name of a fabled New Orleans cornet/trumpet man. But the answer was a surprise. Larry is a big fan of Harry James and was a friend as well. 

Larry offered an interesting insight into one aspect of Harry’s very complex personality. When Harry and the band were playing in Columbia at the tail end of the big band era, Larry invited Harry over for dinner and offered Harry the use of their guest cottage. Harry thanked him but said he would stay in the hotel with the guys in the band. He said, “if that’s where they stay, then that’s where I stay.” Harry made a point of treating his band well.

$5 Jazz Society Members, $10 Non-Members, Under 18 FREE 
Annual Jazz Society Memberships Individual $20, Family $25