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Larry Coryell: Less Rock, More Jazz

Todd S. Jenkins By

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AAJ: At what point did you hook up with Marcus?

LC: Also about a year after I got to New York, maybe the summer of '66.

AAJ: And it was about that time that you got involved with the Jazz Composers Orchestra?

LC: That would have been a year later, I think. I'm not too good on my history. But I'll tell you, that was a very interesting time in New York. It was exciting. There was a lot of emphasis on the experimental side. A lot of stuff wasn't that great to listen to, but it was sure fun to play.

AAJ: They were breaking new ground, and sometimes that's more important for the time being.

LC: Some of the stuff that was done on ESP Records, I hear some of it today and it's unbelievably good.

AAJ: Right. Their first release was by the Albert Ayler Trio (Spiritual Unity).

LC: That's exactly the artist I was thinking about.

AAJ: A lot of that experimental feel from the 60s is active again in New York, especially around the Tonic and Knitting Factory scenes.

LC: Well, I don't live in New York anymore but I'm glad to hear that. It was essential to me to spend a lot of years in New York to really get a foundation in the music. I don't feel like I need to live there anymore.

AAJ: You've been there, done that, and moved on?

LC: Thirty-three years. But I've also learned a lot from going to Europe.

AAJ: It seems a lot of the fusion musicians these days have more of an audience in Japan than in America.

LC: Not only Japan, but in the Middle East and certain parts of Europe, fusion is huge.

AAJ: What do you think keeps it so alive over there and so bloody dead here in America where it was born?

LC: I don't know, but I do know that the fans of fusion that I've seen in Europe really are attracted to the good fusion virtuosos. They like Scott Henderson, guys who can play. Over here, jazz guitar is just pretty much your straight arch-top, dark style. I don't know why. I'm just glad to see guys like Scott Henderson, really good players who like to play electric styles. I'm glad there's an audience and some opportunities to work, even if it's not in their own country.

AAJ: How has your approach to this music changed since, say, the Eleventh House?

LC: Oh, it's a lot less loud. A lot less rock-and-roll-ish, more jazz ideas but still a mixing of styles.

AAJ: Anything else you'd like to say about this particular reunion?

LC: Well, it really needed to be done. Years ago Steve and I both knew a really nice fellow, a common friend from Denmark. We were happy when we were able to make the reunion, to validate the effort that this common friend made on our behalf to help us develop as people back in the turbulent time of the late 60s.

AAJ: You mentioned earlier about the practice of taking a motif and extrapolating it, doing some variations. That's very much in the bag of Joe Henderson, what he's been doing all these years. Which leads us to your new HighNote album, Inner Urge. (Henderson composed the title track.)

LC: I actually like that record. I don't always like the records I make, but I really like that record. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that we had a really good group, and that we were careful in the material that we chose. Most everything was one take, and everyone played very well. I was lucky I got a good sound out of the guitar; or rather, Rudy Van Gelder got a good sound out of the guitar.

The music speaks for itself. We had a couple of problems with the first track because it was a difficult line and it was the first tune of the day. I did have to go back in and fix the melody, which is a real bear. But the spontaneity was retained, in the soloing and the interaction of the rhythm section. I also felt that somehow, for whatever reason, our version of "In A Sentimental Mood" was really appropriate to what Ellington and Strayhorn were trying to say. It was nice.

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