Only the most most skilled and confident musicians can record a sterling album in two days but if anyone qualifies for inclusion in that category, it's Larry Coryell. A veteran of no small renown, albeit somewhat under the radar compared to peers like John McLaughlin, the former leader of the Eleventh House radiates the surety of a master on Heavy Feel, all the while maintaining the distinctive sound of his guitar that hearkens straight back to influential titles from early in his career like Spaces (Vanguard, 1970).
Working with just three other players on this his third record for Wide Hive, Coryell mixes up his approach with great savvy over the course of the nine tracks. "Ghost Note" adheres to the concept suggested in the album title with thick slabs of electric guitar echoing over sturdy bass and drums from Mike Montgomery and Mike Hughes respectively. "River Crossing." however, is an immediate change-up with Coryell taking an acoustic guitar in hand for a brilliant display of solo playing on the instrument.
It may sound effortless, but the man's exertion is audible as he hits note after note squarely and surely throughout the Indian-flavored composition. "The Way It Was" reaffirms the consistency of Larry Coryell's tone over close to a half-century of playing, the glistening glow of the notes he hits them hearkening the traditional jazz guitar of Tal Farlow or Jim Hall even as his staccato attack bespeaks an intimate knowledge of, and feel for, the blues.
As with each track on which he appears during Heavy Feel, saxophonist George Brooks seasons the arrangement of "Jailbreak" with some exotic soprano horn playing and, whether in solo flight or call and response with the bandleader, his contribution sounds like an integral part of the piece. The album seems like it's over just as it begins, in large part because this cut is the only one that goes past five minute duration (it clocks at 6:15). No doubt some kudos should go to producer Gregory Howe for encouraging and capturing this in-the-moment, pithy approach, but it's also fair to say that the only way to improve this album would be to lengthen it, perhaps with an extended compositional suite of a sort.
But Larry Coryell has always known how to say his piece and move on, so the forthright economy in play here should be no surprise. Nor should the depth of atmosphere conjured up on one number after another, which is never more spacious that on the enigmatically titled "Foot Path to Oasis." Those musiclovers in need of another guitar hero to worship might do well to turn their attention to the Texas native, while those in the know will remain confident hearing this record that the object of their admiration continues to deserve, no command, such adulation and attention.
Ghost Note; River Crossing; The Way It Was; Polished; Heavy Feel; 2011 East;
Sharing Air; Jailbreak; Foot Path to Oasis.
Larry Coryell: chitarra; George Brooks: sax (soprano); Matt Montgomery: basso;
Mike Hughes: batteria.
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