Larry Williams on John Elliott
Larry Williams plays reeds and keyboards. He has played with Seawind, George Benson, Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Sheila E, Prince, and Al Jarreau, just to name a few. The following was taken from an interview in Jazz Ambassadors Magazine.
"I was... fortunate to study piano and theory with John Elliott."
John Elliott, of course, was the Madame Chaloff of Kansas City for a generation of great Kansas City musicians. You almost cannot have a conversation with musicians from this era without quickly moving to John Elliott.
"John Elliott codified a system, and was a great teacher who could impart that system to his students. It was half piano and half theory. I really do not know if I would have been a serious piano player without him. I took to it very quickly."
"He had marvelous systems for playing in the real world, this enabled me to be able to put a lot of things together at an early age. He taught me how to listen to music, that it is all built off the bass, the bass is the base! It dictates everything. This was revolutionary."
"On top of everything else that made him an amazing teacher, he was also gentle and inspiring."
Larry wrote the following in the John F. Elliott Guestbook on Legacy.com on July 3rd, 2013 after learning of John's death:
I was so very fortunate to grow up in Overland Park with my Dad, Tommy Williams as one of the premier tenor sax and woodwind player/teacher in KC area. In addition to starting me on clarinet and then sax he sent me to Bob Luyben (Luyben's Music) for clarinet lessons and Jim Hamilton (first in KC Phil) for flute lessons. While early in junior high I was piddling around on the piano and my dad said there were never enough good piano players around so I should go learn piano and arranging with John. I sincerely believe that was the most fortuitous act of many my father did for me in my young musical life.
Every Saturday morning I would go to John's studio on 95th and learn harmony, theory and arranging starting at age 12 or so. Within the first year of study John noticed I had some proficiency on the piano and said why don't we do have theory/arranging and half formal piano lessons as he agreed there were never enough good piano players around. In spite of studying woodwinds full time I began to quickly learn a whole new language of theory and harmony by practicing John's meticulous methods. He opened my ears with the figured bass system and got me hearing in colors, easily identifying chords by ear. And learning the classical repertoire and jazz standards with him was magical. I still use the finger exercises to stay in shape and for warm up.
I most remember his amazingly gentle demeanor, searingly intense but child like love for music and discovery. Every advance in learning with him felt to me like he shared in the triumph. I came to revere him as a person and I can only remember one time I was not fully prepared to ace my lesson. That's all it took because he didn't have to say anything to me but "You didn't practice, come back next week". I was mortified as there was no one I more respected than Mr. Elliot. Through my next 6 years with him I studied and practiced every lesson until I had it down so as not to let him down.
I credit much of my success as a professional musician with the intelligence, passion, wit and magic of John Elliot. Pat Metheny and I don't see each
other often but when we do we always talk of what a giant John was and will always be in our hearts and minds.