In his latter life, Larry Coryell was a frequent visitor to Ireland, where he would invariably hitch up with bassist David Redmond
and drummer Kevin Brady
, the esteemed rhythm team for the likes of Tommy Halferty
, Bill Carrothers
, Norma Winstone
and Ian Shaw
. In May 2016, during Coryell's last trip to Ireland, he entered Dublin's Hellfire Studios, with Redmond and Brady, to record what would be his final studio album. At around forty-five minutes in duration, Larry Coyell's Last Swing In Ireland
, is a compact affair by today's sometimes bloated standards, but it is a high-quality session, and one absolutely bristling with energy.
Perhaps best known as the blazing jazz-rock guitarist of Free Spirits and Eleventh House, Coryell was also an outstanding acoustic practitioner, as witnessed on his collaborations with Emily Remler
, Badi Assad, John Abercrombie
, Philip Catherine
and, briefly, in the trio with John McLaughlin
and Paco de Lucia
. Here, Coryell makes his acoustic guitar sing sweetly on the brushes-steered "In a Sentimental Mood," the crawling pace of this Charlie Byrd
-esque interpretation accentuating the finesse behind the guitarist's every note. Equally captivating is the trio's laid back, acoustic reading of Luiz Bonfá's "Morning of the Carnival," where Coryell traverses the string's poles from caressing, bluesy minimalism to lightning-fast runs. As Coryell's flames recede, Brady's washing cymbals sigh like softly breaking waves.
The rest of the set sees Coryell switch to electric guitar. Redmond's fast-walking bass courses through Charlie Parker
's "Relaxin' at Camarillo," a charged bop workout led from pillar to post by an animated Coryell. Spurred on by Brady's combustible rhythms, the guitarist revels in a brilliant extended solo that arguably references Kenny Burrell
a formative influencemore so than Parker.
Like Parker, Coryell admired Igor Stravinsky, so much so that he recorded an entire album, L'Oiseau de Feu, Petrouchka,
(Philips, 1983) in homage to that giant of 20th century classical music. On the intro to "Someday My Prince Will Come," over a metronomic bass pulse, the guitarist tips a wink to the Russian composer with quotations from "The Firebird Suite" and "Rite of Spring." Redmond and Brady both shine on this elegantly rendered standard.
There are two freshly minted Coryell originals: "The Last Peavey"with Redmond switching to churning electric bassis a ballsy, blues-rock workout. Coryell is in imperious form here, and, judging by his roars, fully invested in the task at hand. Brady's solo spot, with Coryell comping, is an added adrenaline rush. "369" is a slower but no less intense affair. Redmond's terrific double bass ostinato provides an even keel for Coryell's soloing, which exhibits strands of the psychedelic, blues, rock and jazz milieu from which he emerged in the 1960s. Brady and then Redmond step up before the trio returns to the head.
By turns refined and passionate, historically grounded yet with contemporary wings, Larry Coryell's Last Swing With Ireland
is a fine closing statement from one of the great jazz guitarists of the past half century. Much of the credit for that is due to Redmond and Brady, consummate musicians both, who dovetail with Coryell as though the three had been playing together all their professional lives.
In a Sentimental Mood; Morning of the Carnival; Relaxin’ at the Camarillo; Someday my Prince Will Come; The Last
Dave Redmond: electric bass (5).
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