Some jazz musicians insist on playing jazz exclusively and want nothing at all to do with rock, R&B, hip-hop, country, or reggae, but jazz guitarist Adam Larrabee doesn't feel that way -- like saxophonist Branford Marsalis and pianist Joe Sample, Larrabee is a jazz improviser who has no problem appearing in non-jazz settings. Larrabee, in fact, backed rocker Bruce Hornsby on his 1998 release Spirit Trail. Nonetheless, the Boston resident is a jazz musician first and foremost, and he is comfortable playing fusion as well as post-bop. Larrabee isn't the sort of guitarist who beats listeners over the head with technique; his playing tends to be very lyrical, reflective, airy, and introspective. The New Englander's primary influences include, among others, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, and John Abercrombie. Another influence is Jim Hall, who was a major influence on Metheny. Like Hall, Larrabee knows how to use space effectively and doesn't inundate listeners with notes for the sake of notes. And Larrabee, who plays banjo and mandolin as secondary instruments, is obviously well aware of the ECM Records catalog, which has had a major impact on his playing, composing, and arranging.
Although Larrabee now lives in Boston and teaches jazz at the New England Conservatory (NEC), he grew up in Windsor, CT. Both of his parents were English teachers, and both of them encouraged the guitarist's interest in different styles of music. Growing up in New England, Larrabee listened to a wide variety of jazz and non-jazz artists. He loved Metheny, Scofield, and Abercrombie, but he was also a huge fan of the Grateful Dead, Steely Dan, and Joni Mitchell. Larrabee, who was born in the early ‘70s, went on to study music at Oberlin Conservatory in the early ‘90s. It was at Oberlin that he met his friend David Zoffer, an acoustic pianist who grew up in Pittsburgh, PA moved to Boston and also teaches jazz at NEC. Larrabee and Zoffer have played together extensively as a piano/guitar duo -- no drums, no bass, no horns -- and they bring very different backgrounds to the table. Zoffer has cited New Orleans pianist James Booker and the late soul-jazz/hard bop dynamo Gene Harris as major influences -- he likes funky, bluesy, gritty, extroverted pianism, whereas Larrabee was influenced by more introspective playing. But Zoffer and Larrabee have had no problem finding common ground, and their performances are quite cohesive. The Zoffer/Larrabee duo can be heard on the album Courage in Closeness: Live in Boston, which focuses on two of their concerts at NEC (one in1999, the other in 2000) and was released on Zoffer's own label, Zofco Records. In addition to his frequent performances with Zoffer, Larrabee has played with major jazz artists who include, among others, acoustic bassist Dave Holland and tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath. Larrabee has also played with the Indigo Invention Group, an experimental, Boston-based big band that is led by saxophonist/composer Hans Spencer Indigo. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi