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Larry Coryell: Aurora Coryellis

Glenn Astarita By

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In the 1970s musicians were spinning new threads on the jazz language and guitarist Larry Coryell prominently figured into these schematics while also designated as one of the grandfathers of jazz fusion, namely due to his electrified work with vibraphonist Gary Burton on Duster (RCA, 1967). This 3-CD box set complete with a detailed booklet captures the artist at three different venues performing solo acoustic guitar, fusion and a revved up modern jazz guitar trio setting. These discs present an heirloom of sorts, highlighting Coryell's wide-ranging music vernacular and translucent integration of blues, R&B, modern jazz, rock, Eastern concepts and Spanish bravado.

Coryell's quintet bursts out of the gate on Jazz Workshop—Boston, MA—September 13, 1972 (CD-1), including saxophonist Steve Marcus (Buddy Rich Big Band) and Mike Mandel who was a prominent member of the leader's high-impact fusion unit, The Eleventh House. However, the audio quality on this disc is a bit tinny and compressed unlike the others which are surprisingly good. Indeed, the band is on a mission as Coryell and Marcus go for the proverbial jugular through various funk, rock and jazz choruses, often leading to feverish codas and zippy bop movements. It doesn't take long to grasp the live performance aura, especially during Mandel's piece "Hen-Hopper," enamored by the guitarist's flailing single note flurries, spiced with bluesy chord clusters and drummer Harry Wilkinson's crackling straight-four beats.

Other than his robust The Eleventh House unit, recordings with guitarist John McLaughlin, keyboardist Chick Corea Spaces (Vanguard, 1970) and other pivotal endeavors, Coryell's 70s solo and collaborative acoustic guitar LPs often garnered numerous accolades. On Clark University Little Center—Worcester, MA—June 23, 1976 (CD-2), his strikingly diverse methodology and lucid improvisational developments come to the forefront. And with Wayne Shorter's "Rodrigo Reflections" he cranks out the melody with super-speed licks while delving deeply into the structural components of the composition, countered by unanticipated reverse engineering processes. But Coryell's rendition of vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson's ballad "Rene's Theme," is where he concentrates on timbre, executed with great sensitivity, while placing emphasis on the lower-registers via sublime musings and unforeseen detours.

Coryell engages the jazz guitar trio format on San Jose Jazz Festival—San Jose, CA—August 11, 2002 (CD-3), featuring ex-Pat Metheny Group drummer Paul Wertico and bassist Jeff Chambers. Here, the band tackles Duke Ellington's timeless standard "In a Sentimental Mood;" two comps from his Spaces LP and one of Thelonious Monk's many signature pieces "Trinkle Trinkle." Essentially, the band gels to a conglomeration of bop and up-tempo jazz vamps, spiced with deconstruction efforts and the leader's blinding aerial assaults.

No longer relegated to the music vaults, this 3-CD set recaps Coryell's important contributions to the vibrancy and restless spirit of the 70s, as hearty doses of experimentation and electro-acoustic jazz expansionism became a routine occurrence. Coryell and other guitar heroes of the day helped establish these multipronged implementations that in various ways and means planted the seeds for future use even as an air of excitement remains intact several decades later.

Track Listing: CD1: Jazz Workshop, Boston, MA - September 13, 1972; Offering; Ruminations; Hen-Hopper; Scotland Part One; Offering (Reprise). CD2: Clark University (Little Center) Worcester, MA - June 23, 1976; Julie La Belle; Juju; Rodrigo Reflections; Eyes of Love; Improvisations on Sarabande; The Restful Mind; Gratitude; Bouquet; Rene s Theme; Ain t It Is; St. Gallen; Spain. CD3: San Jose Jazz Festival, San Jose, CA - August 11, 2002; Trinkle Trinkle; In A Sentimental Mood; Bumpin On Sunset; Manha de Carnaval; Theme to Black Orpheus); Spaces Revisited Part One; Spaces Revisited Part Two; The Dragon Gate (Excerpt).

Personnel: CD1 -Larry Coryell: guitar; John Miller: bass; Mike Mandel: keyboards; Steve Marcus: saxophones; Harry Wilkinson: drums. CD2 – Larry Coryell: guitar; CD3 – Larry Coryell: guitar; Jeff Chambers: bass; Paul Wertico: drums.

Title: Aurora Coryellis | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Purple Pyramid


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