Sunday, 5 October 2008

Larry Coryell...

In between cooling down after a bike ride and getting ready to do a shift of painting at the house, I thought there'd be time for another posting. I'm choosing this one for two reasons. Firstly there's another eBay connection - the only time I've ever had negative feedback was when I sold this disc. Apparently the buyer didn't like the fact that it was a 'promo', despite it being marked as such in my listing. 'Learn to read', I say.

The other reason is that I've been listening to a bit more rock guitar after seeing David Gilmour's Live In Gdansk on BBC4 the other week. How simply my mind works when you understand the connections. Next I'll be using the same reasoning to justify buying a Fender Stratocaster, if I don't curb my enthusiasms...



LARRY CORYELL with Victor Bailey and Lenny White
Electric
CHESKY RECORDS (JD 308)

Wolfbane; BB Blues; So What; Sex Machine; Black Dog; Footprints; Born Under A Bad Sign; Low Blow; Rhapsody & Blues.

Larry Coryell (g); Victor Bailey (elb); Lenny White (d). (No date available).

Described by Chesky as a collection of jazz, blues and rock ‘anthems’, Electric may seem on paper to be a recipe for lunk-headed fusion excess. This, however, is Larry Coryell, the man who emerged in the mid ‘60s playing forward looking music with Herbie Mann, Chico Hamilton and Gary Burton. His career may have taken a few questionable latin-tinged turns since then, but recent groups with John Hicks have revealed a clever and powerful player within familiar post-bop territory, reminding the jazz world that he’s still here.

The presence of White (ex Return To Forever) and Bailey (ex Weather Report) naturally makes Electric far more plugged-in by comparison. Yet despite obvious rock sensibilities, Coryell still reaches out to the core jazz audience with an ease comparable to John Scofield. The funky lope of Miles’ “So What”, for example, is a radical transformation, but one which shouldn’t offend too many purists. Coryell’s long melodic lines and burnished tone stand favourable comparison with Sco’s formidable benchmark, but that shouldn’t be any great surprise given his pedigree.

Some unexpected choices of material - Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” and Sly Stone’s “Sex Machine” to name but two - keep things sounding fresh. It’s certainly fair to say that exploration of nuances isn’t really within this trio’s brief, but the light and shade of “Black Dog” and neat segue into Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” show that the trio are taking their business seriously. The shards of noise opening “Born Under A Bad Sign” aren’t the only passages to recall the grunge of Nels Cline’s Singers , though much of the material on Electric would probably a tad passé for listeners with a post-punk perspective. Think of the ‘80’s Gramavision discs of Scofield or John McLaughlin’s Free Spirits and you’ll understand where Electric is pitched.

This is the type of fusion that retains the grit of rock without adopting any of the gloss of overproduced fusion, or sacrificing the swing and spontaneity of jazz. Special mention must be made of Chesky’s use of cutting edge studio technology, giving a deep sound stage comparable to the best SACD releases. Against expectations, Electric is highly recommended.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, March 2006)

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