Saxophonist Larry Slezak brings an assured swing, a warm soulful tone, and a wealth of experience to No Worries, his first CD as a leader, which was released by Houston's Tierra Studios on November 25, 2008.
The New York native and longtime Houston resident is joined on the recording by his Hammond Organ Band-veteran guitarist Clayton Dyess; bassist Thomas Helton; the young pianist Jose-Miguel Yamal, who also plays Hammond B3 organ on several tracks; vocalist Sheri Lavo; and Larry's son Joe Slezak on drums.
"The band is playing the kind of music people don't get to hear that much anymore, " says Slezak. "You can't listen to B3 and feel bad. It makes you feel good." Adds the saxophonist, who first played with a B3 at the age of 15, "Small-group jazz is to American music what the string quartet is to classical music."
The Slezak quintet is augmented on two tracks apiece by their regular vocalist, Sheri Lavo; by former Woody Herman trumpeter Dennis Dotson; and by percussionist Fernando Ledesma.
No Worries also features the saxophonist with orchestral backing on four selections. Strings were arranged by Bernie Hatch and conducted by CD producer Dr. Robert Linder.
Larry Slezak was born in Manhattan in 1946 and gravitated to the saxophone after hearing Bill Doggett's hit recording of "Honky Tonk." Growing up in New York afforded him the opportunity, while still in his teens, to hear all the great musicians live, from Armstrong to Ellington and Basie. He was drawn to the music and was working professionally by the time he was 14.
Since relocating to Houston in 1973, Slezak has mastered the entire reed instrument family and has performed in the orchestras for Johnny Mathis, Liza Minnelli, Burt Bacharach, Tony Bennett, Joe Williams, and countless others. He also performs with the Houston Symphony and Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, and is instructor of saxophone and applied jazz studies at Rice University, where he directs the Rice Jazz Ensembles.
Among the many artists he's worked with are Arnett Cobb, Elvin Jones, Hank Crawford, King Curtis, Roy Eldridge, Jimmy Smith, and Clifford Scott (whose saxophonics on "Honky Tonk" changed Slezak's life).