It all started innocently enough a little over 38 years ago.
Already an accomplished flautist at age 18, Walle Larsson was working as a waiter at Alberta’s Chateau Lake Louise in Canada’s scenic rocky mountains. Then, it happened: the trumpet player in the resort’s in-house band had a skiing accident. His lip badly split, he couldn’t play. A replacement was needed immediately; young Larsson and his magical flute were called into action.
As the saying goes, the rest is history. Since that fateful day 38 years ago, Larsson – who now makes the saxophone his instrument of choice - has never been out of work, and little wonder why.
Known for an incredible ethic – Walle is intensely devoted to his craft – and a creative imagination second to none, Larsson has been wowing audiences from New York to Montreal, Toronto to Tokyo with sizzling jazz solos and sultry smooth jazz tones for nearly four decades.
Over that time, the six-foot-four Larsson – who possesses a strong stage presence characterized by not only his larger-than life silhouette, but the ability to interact with audiences in a warm, genuine manner – has shared the stage with the likes of legendary jazz greats Mel Torme and the ageless Tony Bennett.
As Entertainment Liaison for The Lyric Theatre in Winnipeg, Walle has used his extensive music connections to bring in – and then back – world-class artists such as as keyboardist Jeff Lorber, saxophonist Dave Koz, guitarist Brian Hughes, Les Sabler, Katherine Penfold, Carol Welsman and Four80 East.
At his best live – Larsson’s improvisational skills are second-to-none – Walle has recorded five albums, starting with The Walle Larsson Band, recorded in his hometown of Winnipeg in 1991. On the strength of that album, Larsson was invited to play at the Montreal Jazz Festival and was then summoned to New York to showcase his skills for Bluenote Records.
He then packed his bags and headed back to Montreal to record his second CD with some of Montreal’s finest musicians, including Michel Cuson, Mario Parent and Paul Brochu. In preparing for the recording, the group played at the legendary jazz club, Lair du Temps, tearing up the stage on a regular basis. After spending time in Montreal further honing his skills, Larsson then returned to Winnipeg to launch his second CD at the Burton Cummings Theatre.
Always an ambassador for smooth jazz, Walle hosted a groove jazz show on Winnipeg’s Magic 99.9 FM for 10 years. At the same time, he played regularly at venues around the city, his skills ever improving. He recorded two more CD’s, and became Entertainment Liaison for The Lyric Theatre at Assiniboine Park, establishing himself as the ambassador for smooth jazz not only in Winnipeg, but western Canada. It was only his sterling reputation and skills that drew – and will continue to draw – acts such as Dave Koz, Jeff Lorber and Brian Hughes back to Winnipeg to perform.
Most recently, Walle released his fifth album, After the Night. Containing 10 Larsson originals that range from sultry smooth jazz to Latin-flavoured funk, it proved that he was simply getting better with age; an example of his ever-improving skills can be found on the CD’s title track, where Larsson’s sax soared on After the Night.
Walle is currently working on CD number six, and is in the beginning stages of booking artists – he hopes to bring Koz, Lorber and others to the stage in summer 2012 – at the Lyric Theatre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Larsson remains dedicated to promoting smooth jazz in Winnipeg, Canada and wherever his sax takes him.
His dedication to being the best he can be remains undiminished, as well. Like a fine wine, Larsson is simply getting better with age, where his hard work, supreme dexterity and creativity will no doubt keep him at the top of his game for years to come.
Larsson, 56, lives in Winnipeg with his wife Joanne, saxophone (and flute) always at the ready to shine at his next gig, wherever it might be.