02. Beautiful Woman
03. The Jam With Albert
04. Elementary Guitar Solo# 5
05. No One Really Knows
06. Morning Sickness
07. Ah Wuv Ooh
Recorded April, 25, 1969
- Larry Coryell / guitar,vocals, piano, side 1, track 2
- Chuck Rainey / bass, side 1,track 2 ; side 2, tracks 1,2 ,3
- Ron Carter / bass, side1, track2; side 2 track 4
- Albert Stinson / bass, side 1, track 3; side 2, track 2 ( 2nd part )
- Bernard Purdie / drums
- Mike Mandel / organ, piano side 2, track 1
- Jim Pepper / Flute
"The greatest musician who ever lived as far as I'm concerned is Jimi
Hendrix, but I hate him because he took everything away from me that
Never consistently identified with any specific style of jazz or music in general, the improvisational guitar technique of Larry Coryell has lent its voice to a myriad of styles and moods of the musical spectrum. Jazz-rock fusion, blues, folk, contemporary classical, post bop, East Indian modal as well as forays into rhythmic Brazilian ethnic music make up some of the styles he has mastered over the course of 40 years of recording and performing. The configurations in which he performed were as equally as diverse and he has appeared in super bands, guitar duos, trios as well as a brooding unaccompanied soloist.
Born in Galveston, Texas on April 2, 1943 Coryell grew up in the Seattle, Washington area where his mother introduced him to the piano at the tender age of 4. He switched to guitar and played rock music while in his teens. He didn't consider himself good enough to pursue a music career and studied journalism at The University of Washington while simultaneously taking private guitar lessons. By 1965 he had relocated to New York City and began taking classical guitar lessons which would figure prominently in later stages of his career. Although citing Chet Atkins and Chuck Berry as early influences he also took cues from jazzmen such as John Coltrane and Wes Montgomery. He was also inspired by the popular music of the day by the Beatles, The Byrds and Bob Dylan and worked diligently to meld both rock and jazz stylings into his technique. This was reflected on his debut recording performance on drummer Chico Hamilton's album " The Dealer" where he sounded like chuck Berry at times with his almost distorted "fat" tone. Also in 1966 he formed a psychedelic band called The Free Spirits on which he also sang vocals, played the sitar and did most of the composing. Although conceptually the band's music conformed to the psychedelic formula with titles like "Bad News Cat" and" I'm Gonna Be Free" it foreshadowed jazz rock with more complex soloing by Coryell and Sax/flute player Jim Pepper. However, it wasn't until three years later after apprenticing on albums by Vibraphonist Gary Burton and flutist Herbie Mann and gigging with the likes of Jack Bruce and others that Coryell established his multifarious musical voice, releasing two solo albums which mixed jazz, classical and rock ingredients. In late 1969 he recorded "Spaces", the album for which he is most noted. It was a guitar blow-out which also included John McLaughlin who was also sitting on the fence between rock and jazz at the time and the cogitative result formed what many aficionados consider to be the embryo from which the fusion jazz movement of the 1970s emerged. It contained insane tempos and fiery guitar exchanges which were often beyond category not to mention some innovating acoustic bass work by Miroslav Vitous and power drumming by Billy Cobham both of whom were to make contributions to Jazz rock throughout the `70s.
Coryell was not content to sit back and rest on the laurels of "Spaces" and continued to rearrange the molecular configuration of modern music throughout the `70s. His albums had an improvisational jazz mentality with ubiquitous rock affections. By 1972 he had played the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and cut another acclaimed jazz rock album entitled "Barefoot Boy", recorded a Electric Lady Studios which drew Hendrix comparisons. The groundwork for the band he would lead from 1973 to 1975 The Eleventh House was laid down on the 1972 recording "Offering" which also included high school friend Mike Mandel. It was a hard rocking jazz -rock album with wah-wahed out guitar and keyboard improvisations, which would become a staple on the First Eleventh House album in `73 "Introducing Larry Coryell & The Eleventh House". A notable addition was Randy Becker's expressive trumpet playing which also featured wah-wah effects, which gave the band a Miles Davis, tinge to it. Powerhouse drummer Alphonse Mouzon added a heavy aspect to the band and his playing resembled that of Billy Cobham`s in many ways. Much more funked out and rhythmical than contemporaries with a more compressed sound, The Eleventh House never achieved the grandeur of The Mahavishnu Orchestra or Return To Forever who had the heavy hitting Columbia record label backing them. Nevertheless, Eleventh House gained a loyal following and did two tours of Europe and one tour of Japan before disbanding in `75.
Towards the mid `70s Coryell began to wander off into undiscovered territory, which concentrated more on acoustic playing. He seeked out other musicians' ideas and made an "ethno-jazz" album in 1975 with Ralph Towner from the folk-jazz band Oregon. It featured East Indian and Classical interpretations as well as his own compositions, which blended in beautifully with these atmospheres. He also began to perform in guitar duos with Steve Khan, another jazz-rock guitarist, as well as with the Gypsy influenced Belgian guitarist Philip Catherine. Catherine served as a catalyst in developing Coryell`s style giving it more depth and experimentation. The two acoustic albums they recorded together, "Twin House" and "Splendid" were technically brilliant and bright sounding and entered into guitar folklore alongside his previous "Spaces" recording with John McLaughlin. Influenced by the time he spent in Europe Coryell recorded a reflective solo acoustic album entitled " Impressions of Europe" as well as another album " The Lion and the Ram" which contained even further eclectic explorations. A brief return to the electric guitar yielded two albums, "Difference" and "Back Together Again", the latter, which reunited members of the last line-up of The Eleventh House as well as Philip Catherine on electric guitar, becoming one of the most exciting fusion albums of the `70s. He also guested on albums by jazz masters Stephane Grappelli and Charles Mingus during this period and by 1979 was touring Europe with a guitar super trio with old buddy John McLaughlin and flamenco guitar virtuoso Paco DeLucia. Personal matters cut short his participation in this project and in early 1980 he took a brief sabbatical from music.
Throughout the `80s Coryell became a musicologist's nightmare as they struggled to categorize his music. He was off on all kinds of musical tangents and in addition to his jazz interpretations of classical composers Ravel, Rimsky-Kosakov and Stravinsky he took Wes Montgomery-influenced guitar prodigy Emily Remler under his wing and recorded an acoustic guitar duo with her entitled "Together" which echoed the "Twin House" and "Splendid" sessions. East Indian modal music also interested him and he recorded four beautiful albums in this vein with Indian master violinist Dr. Lakshiminarayana Subramaniam. Not forgetting his jazz affinities he revisited fusion and courted post bop styles on solo projects on the Muse record label which even if they didn't break new ground they kept him in touch with the more mainstream jazz scene.
A perpetual student of musical styles, Coryell never stopped exploring and investigating. In 1992 he recorded some of the smoothest laid back playing of his career on a live album recorded in South America with Brazilian Singer/songwriter/guitarist Dori Caymani on which he explored Brazilian rhythmic music, a style he would become more serious with in a 1999 acoustic trio collaboration with another Brazilian guitarist, Badi Assad, and John Abercrombie. In 1997 he toured with jazz/bluegrass finger picker Stephan Grossman and folk rock guitarist John Renbourn, formerly of the English folk/rock group "Pentangle" .Two more fusion outings heavily based on improvisation appeared in the `90s in the form of "Spaces Revisited ", with Bireli Lagrene and original " Spaces" drummer Billy Cobham and "Cause & Effect" with keyboardist Tom Coster (ex-Santana) and drummer Steve Smith of Journey / Vital information fame.
Coryell has remained active in the 21st century and has returned to electric work and has become a more of a straight line on the musical graph occasionally swinging, occasionally rocking it out and even playing the blues. There is much more certainty in his art as it still maintains his unmistakable jazz attitude even when covering such songs as Led Zeppelin`s "Black Dog" on his 2004 album "Electric". In addition to his prolific recording and performing career Larry Coryell has been active in music education, broadcasting and journalism, and he has even designed his own line of guitars for Cort Guitars. His recent concert video entitled A Retrospective, which revisits his early `70s musical triumphs, is alight with that period's electricity and fire and is a solid indication that this living guitar legend has much more in store for lovers of music which ventures outside of the box and beyond.
A forward-thinking jazz guitarist and early architect of electric fusion, Larry Coryell is perhaps less well-known for his singing. However, during the late '60s and early '70s, Coryell did just that, writing and performing a handful of inspired, if quirky jazz-meets-singer/songwriter style compositions on every album. His second solo album, 1969's Coryell, is a great example, and finds him fearlessly blurring the lines between hardcore blues-inflected jazz, pop, and rock. Helping Coryell to achieve this boundary-crossing vibe are his stellar sidemen including innovative funk-friendly drummer Bernard Purdie and organist Mike Mandel. Also on board are a cadre of illustrious bassists in Miles Davis alum Ron Carter, Chuck Rainey, and the lesser known Albert Stinson, who died tragically not long after recording this album. Together, they laid down a vibrant, organic sound that touches upon groove-oriented blues, acid funk, and searingly amped-up jazz-rock. While certainly a gifted and adroit guitarist, as a singer, Coryell had his own laid-back, lo-fi charm. Years before influential indie bands like Pavement and Wilco defined a whole sub-category of hard-to-classify rock with their noodly guitars and jam-out tunes, Coryell was essentially doing the same thing, albeit from a jazz-oriented perspective. On the cheeky, semi-satirical "Sex" (a title inspired by hearing a woman yell "Sex! That's all you people are interested in!" at hippie anti-war protest marchers in the late '60s), Coryell belts out the chorus à la Jimi Hendrix before launching into a reverb- and wah-wah-pedal-soaked solo. Conversely, on the sweetly delivered, off-kilter ballad "Beautiful Woman," he sings softly in a flat yet soulful falsetto offset by bluesy guitar punctuations. Similarly, the hazy, Baroque pop-inflected "No One Really Knows" sounds like something along the lines of Luna's Dean Wareham singing a Traffic song that then explodes into loungey, R&B-inflected psych jazz jam. It's a style with few contemporary examples to compare it to, aside from perhaps the harmonically varied folk of Tim Buckley or the equally cosmopolitan Brazilian pop of artists like Marcos Valle. What's so fascinating about Coryell's vocal songs is his almost naive eschewing of genre conventions. This is a guy who can play classical guitar one minute, rip into reverb-soaked blues solo the next, and finish by evincing the hollow-body lyricism of Wes Montgomery. Here he is, in the same year that Miles Davis recorded Bitches Brew and the Beatles delivered Abbey Road, casually knocking out what sounds like Pavement's Stephen Malkmus backed by John McLaughlin. Even his instrumental cuts, like the quirkily titled "Ah Wuv Ooh" (co-written with his wife), are dynamically cross-pollinated nuggets of nuanced jazz, soul, and intricately virtuosic guitar heroics. Coryell's singing waned during the '70s, as he focused more on progressive instrumental fusion and his reputation grew as a highly respected jazz artist. However, listening to this album decades after its initial release only reinforces the notion that Coryell was a dynamic, creative visionary, as much in tune with swinging, blues-informed jazz as the psychedelic rock and folk that increasing dominated the airwaves. Ultimately, Coryell's Coryell remains an embryonic artifact of a transitional era both in his own career and popular musical culture.
Whether this is the debut album or not is debatable, but its his first one under his own name and what a debut this album makes. It's actually virtually impossible to tell that the guitarist on this album will be the jazz and jazz-rock giant he became. Behind this very hippy-ish artwork hides a pure blistering piece of hard rocking guitar. The line-up consists of permanent sidemen such as school friend Mike Mandel (KB), drummer Purdie, with the bass slot still not decided between Rainey and Stinson. Guesting are old collab Amerindian Jim Pepper, Miles collab Ron Carter, while wife Julie signs the liner notes (and gets two track credits as well) and in-house producer Danny Weiss at the production helm, this debut album is certainly no accident and the very base of Larry Coryell's early career.
Quite a varied album we get here, as the tracks range from the good rocking sung track like the opening Sex track (sounding like Lenny Kravitz circa Let Love Rule, with more instrumental space) and Morning Sickness (guitar as medication), to incandescent lengthy instrumental extrapolations Jam With Albert (Stinson the bassist), from the softer psych-blues Beautiful Woman (again early Kravitz comes to mind) to the slow-starting boogie Elementary Guitar Solo #5 (an excuse for a hot searing and soaring solo) turning into a wild mid-section tempo. The two Julie-penned tracks are both quality piece that do not detract from the rest of the album, especially the wild No One Really Knows, starting out nicely, until Larry hoofs it into the stratosphere with his guitar and the closing Ah-Wuv-Oh, where Pepper's flute plays an interesting contrast with Larry's guitar.
Certainly one of Larry Coryell's best moments in his career that will feature many, I would like to point out that if Larry Coryell would progress musically greatly, he was starting from a solid base like this album. Indeed this album can't be called jazz, jazz-rock t all, it is a pure R'nR album, and one that's highly recommended, too.