Call To The Higher Consciousness . . : Larry Coryell (1943 – 2017)

I was literally on my way out of town when I heard the news that guitarist Larry Coryell passed away. Nowadays, I am reluctant to write posts on the latest musician to pass away since it seems that every week another musical hero leaves us but this one felt personal. Coryell was one of my favorite guitarists in the early Seventies when I was starting to play guitar and his playing and several early records of his had an enormous impact on my playing and musical development overall.

I’ll leave the biography to other sources like Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Coryell) and instead talk about my favorite records of his and the live performances of his that had the biggest impact on me.

I first heard of Larry Coryell via reviews in Rolling Stone and The Village Voice as one of the handful of musicians who were developing this new music called Jazz Rock. I remember my brother having a copy of his first record Lady Coryell which has one of my favorite guitar solos on the tune Treats Style (I wrote about this solo in my post “How Blue Can You Get . . .” : Some Lesser Known Blues Solos Worth Checking Out here:  https://roymusicusa.com/2014/07/11/how-blue-can-you-get-some-lesser-known-blues-solos-worth-checking-out/).

I think the first Larry Coryell record that I bought was Barefoot Boy (Flying Dutchman Records, 1971). The record was a bit unfocused but the highlight was the Coryell tune Call To The Higher Consciousness (such a sixties title). The clip below is not the version from Barefoot Boy. Frankly, that version is marred by a long boring drum solo in the middle. The one below is a much shorter, more concise version that still has that early seventies hippie jazz vibe and great playing from Coryell.

Larry Coryell – Call to the Higher Consciousness –

The following year Coryell released Offering (Vanguard, 1972) with his band Foreplay (not to be confused with the later fusion group Fourplay). This is one of my all time favorite records. I know it’s not a brilliant, amazing, history making record but it just continues to speak to me forty five later. There is a loose jazzy interplay within the group (Steve Marcus, soprano sax, Mike Mandel, keyboards, Melvyn Bronson, bass and Harry Wilkinson, drums along with Larry Coryell, guitar) with a unforced rocking energy that I find missing in later Fusion groups. Again, Coryell’s guitar playing is great. He freely mixes a jazz vocabulary with rock and blues guitar articulations and attitude. At this time, he’s playing a big Gibson hollowbody jazz guitar loud, resulting in a very cool overdrive tone. I remember seeing this band several times, notably opening for Captain Beefheart at Town Hall in NYC in October of 1972 and then as part of of the Newport In New York Jazz festival in June, 1973 in Wollman Skating Rink, Central Park, both times totally blowing me away. Below are clips with my three three favorite tunes from the tunes from the album.

Larry Coryell – Foreplay

Larry Coryell – Offering

Larry Coryell – Scotland I

In 1974 Coryell formed a new band, The Eleventh House, featuring trumpeter Randy Brecker and drummer Alphonse Mouzon. This band always struck me as sounding a little more of what we now associate as Fusion. Not as much improvisational interplay within the band, more of a soloist/accompanist texture but they  still rock out while putting out some impressive playing. The record benefits greatly by having some pretty good tunes with actual melodies and hooks. Here, special mention must be made of keyboardist Mike Mandel, the only holdover from Coryell’s previous group, Foreplay. Mandel contribute my two favorite tunes on the record, Adam Smasher and Joy Ride. They’re not complex compositions but they provide great springboards for some inspired playing from the band. Those two tunes are followed with clips of two more songs from the record, Coryell’s Low-Lee-Tah, with a cool flanged guitar intro and Funky Waltz, a Alphonse Mouzon tune with a great beat and hook.

Larry Coryell & The Eleventh House – Adam Smasher

Larry Coryell & The Eleventh House – Joy Ride

The Eleventh House with Larry Coryell – Low-Lee-Tah

Larry Coryell & The Eleventh House – The Funky Waltz

After these records, my own musical interests took me elsewhere but these records and shows were integral part of who I am now as a musician. Thanks.

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Posted in Jazz, Music Appreciation and Analysis

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