For the past couple of weeks, after hooking up an old record player I bought at a yard sale recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of the vinyl albums I have. One artist whose work I didn’t have in another format is pianist Roger Williams, and every time I put on one of his records, I’m reminded of my friend Larry Dalton, a wonderful pianist, arranger and composer, who saw Williams play when he was a boy and whose music bears his influence. I haven’t seen Larry since he moved away from Nashville two years ago, and I just received word that he tragically died in his sleep Friday night from an apparent heart attack. The sense of loss is profound.
I first met Larry at a keyboard workshop he was teaching about five years ago. One of his handouts, an exercise sheet, was handwritten, and I volunteered to typeset it for him with the music notation software I use. Through that process, we became friends, and shared many meals together. He loved telling stores of gigs he’d played and people he’d met, the times he’d played for artists like Henry Mancini and Mel Torme, the presidents he had played for, the orchestra sessions he was a part of. I’ll never forget sitting in his music room after lunch one day, listening to him play through a piano arrangement on his nine-foot Steinway grand piano that he was in the middle of writing, or seeing the score where he was transcribing a Mozart symphony by ear, because an orchestra he worked with couldn’t find the music for one of the movements and he wanted to help them out.
Growing up, I listened to and volunteered at a radio station where my mom had – and has – a daily radio program, and later worked for them for three and a half years. We had all of Larry’s CDs there at WDYN, and I played his music all the time. Larry loved to take modern praise choruses, the ones that have great melodies, and arrange them in a classical style. He was a great pianist, arranger, and orchestrator, and taught me a lot about orchestral colors, both from listening to his recordings and stories he told me. I have no doubt that Larry is one of the reasons I do what I do today. Larry, you will be missed.