Without a second thought, jazz listeners acknowledge Larry Coryell’s prowess on the guitar. But ask one of those listeners to name one recent Larry Coryell performance they have attended or one tune he has recorded within the past decade, and you may get a blank stare. That’s because Larry Coryellunlike, for example, John Scofield or Pat Methenyloses his persona in his music. According to the demands of the music, Coryell transforms his technique and his musical concept for the total fulfillment of a tune’s spirit. Depending on the circumstances, Coryell may be playing flamenco, classical, fusion, blues, rock or jazz guitar.
Now, one can’t describe Coryell as modest, but he certainly is dedicated. Having devoted his life to the muse and to the music, Coryell, intensely private, seems to have sacrificed high personal recognition for the opportunity to investigate the guitar in its infinitude of possibilities.
The possibilities that Inner Urge offers are those, in large part, of bebop. Consistent in his presentation, Coryell remains out front on each tune as a relaxed, unpretentious and brilliant presence. Don’t believe for a second his claim in the liner notes that “it was a matter of showing up...and staying out of the way.” Rather, Coryell leads the way among a group of equally proficient musicians.
Producer and trumpeter Don Sickler suggested the cohesive idea for Inner Urge. Even though the album is appropriately named after a challenging Joe Henderson number, the first and last tunes framing the repertoire were composed by the often neglected tenor saxophonist Harold Land. It seems that Sickler, to his great credit, is pulling together all of Land’s compositions into a single reference. Having been inspired especially by Wes Montgomery, Coryell makes no bones about alluding directly to Montgomery’s unmistakable octaved style and effortless swing on Land’s “Terrain.”
However, Coryell personalizes his own “Turkish Coffee,” the notes ringing through with crystalline assuredness, due in no small part of Rudy Van Gelder’s sound engineering genius as he employs two amplifiers to document the richness of the guitar. While “Turkish Coffee” hints at Coryell’s wide-ranging flexibility beyond bop tunes, “Allegra’s Ballerina Song,” written in tribute to his daughter, opens Coryell’s heart through his preferred medium of communicationmusic.
The slower tunes give evidence, not just of Coryell’s mastery, but of the instrument’s gorgeousness. His note choices on “Dolphin Dance,” not to mention its overall rippling texture, extend the mellowness of the song beyond piano, as established forever by Herbie Hancock. “Dolphin Dance” is one tune that doesn’t seem to be appropriate when led by a horn. “In A Sentimental Mood” exists on the album, it seems, purely for its lyrical strength, which Coryell underplays, sometimes by subtly dampening the strings for a sly percussive commentary. In addition, one may notice that the instruments are so well tuned and that Coryell and Hicks are so intuitive that when Coryell plays a phrase and Hicks repeats it, the differences of the instruments’ timbral characteristics melt away.
The third in Coryell’s HighNote “trilogy,” Inner Urge presents a locked-in group for the joyful exploration of jazz, which drives the inner urge of them all.