Larry koonse jazz guitarist.
Elite guitarist.
Set of three photos of Larry Koonse playing or holding an acoustic guitar.

Photos by Bob Barry


Born into a musical family, Larry has been playing the guitar since he was seven years old. In his early years he studied with legendary guitar master Jimmy Wyble, and at the age of fifteen he recorded an album with his father, guitarist Dave Koonse, entitled Dave and Larry Koonse; father and son jazz guitars. In 1984, Larry was the first recipient of a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies at the University of Southern California.

Immediately after graduating from USC Larry toured extensively for six years as a member of the John Dankworth quartet, traveling all across the globe and backing up Cleo Laine. He is a member of Billy Child’s landmark chamber sextet whose most recent CD release is titled Autumn: In Moving Pictures. He has received multiple Grammy nominations for the aforementioned CD (jazz album of the year and instrumental performance); for the sextet’s first release Lyric (ensemble performance); and for two Luciana Souza releases (best vocal album for Tide and Book of Chet). Larry also received Grammy nominations for his work with Bob Mintzer (All L.A. Band) and Peter Erskine (Dr. Um). He has also toured with Mel Torme, Bob Brookmeyer, Billy Childs, John Patitucci, David Friesen, Karrin Allyson, Luciana Souza, Natalie Cole, Bob Mintzer, Tierney Sutton, Peter Erskine, Hubert Laws, Warne Marsh and was a featured performer with the Percy Faith Orchestra on a tour of Japan.

At the invitation of Nelson Mandela and UNICEF, Larry traveled to South Africa to perform for the first annual SAMIX festival with the Steve Houghton quintet. He also performed with Gary Willis in Sao Paulo for a government sponsored concert at SESC Ipiranga. In his travels, he has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Academy of Music, Disney Hall, the Sydney Opera House, and has been a featured soloist with the L.A. Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra and many other orchestras throughout the world.

Having been featured on over 400 albums, Larry has recorded with Cleo Laine, Al Hirt, Jimmy Rowles, Bob Brookmeyer, Luciana Souza, Lee Konitz, Larry Goldings, Mel Torme, Alan Broadbent, Ray Brown, Bill Perkins, Toots Thielemanns, Rod Stewart, Seth MacFarlane, Linda Ronstadt, David Friesen, Bob Sheppard, Bob Mintzer, Peter Erskine, Warne Marsh, Charlie Haden, Natalie Cole and many other jazz artists. His solo guitar work was featured throughout “Crazy”, a feature film chronicling the life of the great guitarist Hank Garland.

The founder of the Player’s School, the renown bassist Jeff Berlin, contacted Larry in 1995 to write a guitar curriculum which is currently used for their program. He was co-leader of the L.A. Jazz Quartet which released their fourth CD, Conversation Piece (NAXOS Records) in September, 2000. The quartet’s first three CD’s, Astarte (GOWI), Look To The East (NAXOS), and Family Song (NTR), have received critical acclaim for their originality and musical depth. Larry’s most recent recording, Conversations, a CD featuring the great pianist David Roitstein in a set of originals and standards, is now available through the Jazz Compass label. He has four other releases from Jazz Compass: Americana (a recording featuring Scott Colley on the bass), Dialogues of the Heart (featuring his father Dave Koonse in a guitar duo setting), Storybook (featuring the bassist Darek Oles), and What’s in the Box, featuring the music of the great guitarist/composer Jimmy Wyble in various settings. Larry has been a faculty member at the California Institute of the Arts since 1990.

Career Highlights

  • Tour of Denmark with Sinne Eeg (2018)
  • Tour of New Zealand with Bruce Forman (2018)
  • Tour of North West with Sinne Eeg (2018)
  • Tour of Japan with Sinne Eeg (2017)
  • Recorded 3 CD projects with Seth MacFarlane at Abbey Road (2016)
  • Tour of New Zealand with Karrin Allyson (2016)
  • Jazz Cruise with Tierney Sutton and Hubert Laws (2015)
  • Tour of Japan with Bob Mintzer (2014)
  • Tour of Denmark with Sinne Eeg (2014)
  • Tour of Poland with Aga Zaryan (2013)
  • Multiple US based concerts and tours with Anthony Wilson Seasons Quartet (2013 – present)
  • Tour of Japan with Frank Capp big band (2012)
  • Tour of Romania with Nai virtuoso Damian Draghici (2011)
  • European Tour with Billy Childs (2011)
  • Tour of Japan with Aga Zaryan (2011)
  • Multiple Tours throughout the US with Tierney Sutton and Hubert Laws (2009 – present)
  • European Tour with Natalie Cole (2009)
  • Featured solo guitarist on “Crazy” (feature film about the life of Hank Garland)
  • Grammy nomination for work on “Lyric” with the Billy Childs Chamber Sextet (2006)
  • Co-founder of Jazz Compass (record company . . . 2001- present)
  • Multiple concerts with the John Patitucci Trio featuring Brian Blade (2007-2008)
  • Multiple tours of United States and Europe with Luciana Souza (2007 – present)
  • Multiple tours of Canada and the United States with Karrin Allyson (2005 – present)
  • Multiple Tours throughout the US with Billy Childs Chamber Sextet (2004 – present)
  • Tour of New Zealand with Tom Warrington and Joe La Barbera (2003, 2005, and 2007)
  • Bob Florence Limited Edition (2000-present)
  • Billy Childs Chamber Sextet (1999-present)
  • Created Guitar curriculum for Player’s School founded by Jeff Berlin
  • California Institute of the Arts Faculty (1990-present)
  • University of Southern California Faculty (1991-1993)
  • Tour of South Africa sponsored by Nelson Mandela and UNICEF with Steve
  • Houghton Band (Summer 1995)
  • Los Angeles Jazz Quartet (1994-present)
  • Bob Sheppard Quartet (1990-present)
  • Mel Torme/ Cleo Laine Tour (Summer 1990)
  • Cleo Laine and the John Dankworth Quartet (1984-1991)
  • Featured soloist in Michael Feinstein’s Broadway Show (1992)
  • Warne Marsh Duo and Quartet (1987-1988)
  • Percy Faith Orchestra (featured soloist for tour of Japan . . . Summer of 1986)
  • Terry Gibbs Quartet (1981-1982)
  • Herbie Lewis Quartet with Billy Higgins (1979-1981)