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Improvising: My Life In Music

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Improvising: My Life In Music
Larry Coryell
Softcover; 209 pages
ISBN: 0879308265
Backbeat Books
2007

Improvising: My Life In Music is the autobiography of Larry Coryell. The guitarist takes us through his early years, the start of his career in New York and up through the present. Coryell's is an inspirational tale, but also a cautionary one.

It is fascinating to hear about the great artists Coryell has played with over the years, the development of his own unique style and his pushing of musical boundaries. He shares stories of playing with vibraphonist Gary Burton, violinist Stephane Grappelli, and guitarists John Scofield and John McLaughlin, to name just a few.

Along the way though, Coryell got caught up in drugs and it took him years to hit bottom. He describes how his drug and alcohol abuse nearly destroyed his career and his life. But with gentle urging from pianist Herbie Hancock, saxophonist Wayne Shorter and bassist Buster Williams, he began to practice Buddhism, which sustained him through the recovery process.

Throughout the book, the reader gets a sense of the respect Coryell has for the process of making music and for his fellow musicians. As an added bonus for guitar players, the appendix contains selected Guitar Player magazine columns (along with an accompanying CD) that Coryell wrote in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. Looking through these columns gives insight into the thought process of this guitar giant. Some highlights include lessons on using harmonics á la Lenny Breau, walking bass lines and chord substitutions. Coryell also gives his contemporary opinion on these lessons.

Improvising: My Life In Music proves to be a compelling portrait of a legendary musician who has seen it all—and lived to tell about it.

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