Jazz has taken Normal native Adam Larson to nearly all points on the globe. The U-High grad has also been on the receiving end of critical praise from high places. Longtime Chicago Tribune jazz critic Howard Reich says Larson is “a player for whom the word ‘prodigious’ was coined.” Despite the acclaim, Larson said he still struggles with high, self-imposed expectations.
"Sometimes during school I spent an inordinate amount of time looking at the wrong stuff. For example, looking at other people's success as anything else but admiration and joy."
Larson said he was beating himself up for not already being at the top of his game.
"I guess the way I dealt with feeling that way was writing music for my latest album 'Selective Amnesia.' So this music turned into an outlet of expression, rather than quitting."
Larson said he has always had a driven and ambitious personality. By age 14 he was booking his own gigs and already had an eye on a career in jazz music.
"I also had an internal drive from a young age to want to do well. I'm not sure where it comes from, but there is a competitive side to who I am, and it came out a lot during sports. I remember being in Kindergarten at Oakdale school in Normal. The teacher said the first who gets this math problem done correctly would win a autographed picture of the ISU basketball team. For better or worse it started this drive to get things gone early, and correct. "
Last year, Larson had a chance to visit West Africa for five weeks as part of the U.S. State Department Music Abroad Program. He said his music and jazz in general was well received in those countries.
"It was fascinating to be in the birthplace of the rhythmical component of jazz. To be in Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, and West Africa in general was eye opening. And a large component of the Music Abroad program was to collaborate. So we'd use a couple of my tunes to collaborate with other musicians there. To hear native drummers play along with traditional American jazz music was pretty incredible."
Larson returns to central Illinois that includes a performance at the Normal Public Library June 11, the Pekin Library June 12, and the Normal Theater June 13. He begins a four night run at Chicago's legendary Jazz Showcase June 14.