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Larry Coryell Power Trio: Live in Chicago (High Note, 2003)

After two recent electric fusion project records with drummer Steve Smith, Cause and Effect and Count's Jam Band Reunion, veteran fusion guitarist and composer Larry Coryell returns with Power Trio: Live in Chicago. In a live set captured at The Jazz Showcase, this trio swings through mellow moods with traditional jazz sonic textures, in contrast to the classic fusion that won Coryell fame in the early 70s. The sparse instrumentation, consisting of Larry Gray on upright and electric bass and Paul Wertico on drums, leaves plenty of room for Coryell's guitar to shine. His playing shifts immaculately from bright comping to nimble clean runs or plucked arpeggios, and the rhythm section backs him with subtle confidence. The songs on Live in Chicago range from snappy electric jazz like "Autumn Leaves" through slow dirges like "Black Orpheus" and "Bumpin' on Sunset" to acoustic ballads like "Love is Here to Stay," and Coryell's guitar stirs with beauty in the solo piece "Something." He displays mastery of all these varied styles, but the melodies can't match the catchy heads from his fusion work, like "Scotland I." Coryell and his band perform a solid set of traditional electric and acoustic jazz on Live in Chicago, and the recording captures the crisp feel of live performance, but the music doesn't have the same memorable spark as Coryell's classic or recent fusion. Reviewed by Scott Andrews [] Track Listing: 1. Autumn Leaves 2. Black Orpheus 3. Love is Here to Stay 4. Star Eyes 5. Something 6. Bumpin' on Sunset 7. Good Citizen Swallow 8. Bags' Groove

Coryell / Coster / Smith Cause and Effect (Tone Center/Shrapnel, 1998)

Cause and Effect, an early Tone Center release after the popularity of Vital Tech Tones, featured longtime fusion guitarist Larry Coryell with Vital Information bandmates Tom Coster (organ) and Steve Smith (drums). Coster and Smith had recently toured with a more traditional fusion lineup of Vital Information, captured on the live record "Where We Come From" (1999), while Coryell would later enlist Smith to fill the drum seat on the studio reunion CD of his classic 60s fusion band with saxophonist Steve Marcus, "Count's Jam Band Reunion" (Tone Center, 2001). Following the now-common Tone Center formula, Cause and Effect put these talented fusion musicians together for a week to write and record a studio album. This format of songwriting usually ends up producing extended jams rather than detailed compositions, understandable given the time frame, and then the studio recording captures the interaction of the musicians without a live audience.

Cause and Effect displays a wide range of fusion styles, from up-tempo solid-body guitar jams like "Miss Guided Missiles" to mellow hollow-body guitar vamps like "First Things First;" funky grooves like "Bubba" and syncopated stomps like "These Are Odd Times." The melodic bop of "Wrong is Right" and the clean guitar swing of "First Things First" firmly establish the jazz roots of this ensemble. "Miss Guided Missiles" shreds with an extended guitar solo before a bouncy organ vamp, and "Night Visitors Revisited" snaps with a heavy groove that sounds a lot like the first Gambale/Hamm/Smith Tone Center record, before fading out after barely two minutes. The title track is a rare organ tune without guitar, but it runs less than one minute. The record ends in another blend of traditional jazz guitar and heavy leads, with Coryell's melody in clean octaves giving way to a grainy fuzz lead on "Finale: Wes and Jimi."

Smith's drum work as always is rock heavy and jazz subtle at the same time, and Coster's organ lays down fat chords while spending less time in the forefront in this trio format. With guest bassist Vic Wooten on "These Are Odd Times" (taking a predictably fast and boring bass solo) and session bassist Benny Reitveld on three other tracks, Coster covers the other basslines with the left hand. This reduces him to supporting chord work in the upper register, draining the organ/guitar balance found in the tracks with bass. Coryell's guitar dominates the mood with equal skill in clean hollow-body jazz tone or nimble cutting lead runs.

Cause and Effect is a solid hour of studio fusion jams, but with the flood of all-star studio jam records from Tone Center and other labels, Cause and Effect only stands out from the pack in the true fusion credentials of its players, compared to the 80s metal shredders like ony MacAlpine and Greg Howe that Tone Center is now passing off as fusion guitarists. The relatively tame spark from studio writing and playing can't compare to Coster and Smith jamming on old Vital Information, or Smith in the drummer's chair for Coryell and Marcus on "Count's Jam Band Reunion," where the songs and the musicians' interactions were honed by their respective bands for decades.

Reviewed by Scott Andrews []

More Info:

Larry Coryell: Guitar
Tom Coster: Organ
Steve Smith: Drums
Benny Reitveld: Bass on Tracks 2, 6, and 10.
Vic Wooten: Bass on Track 1

Track Listing:
1. These Are Odd Times
2. Plankton
3. Wrong Is Right
4. Bubba
5. Cause And Effect
6. Nightvisitors
7. Miss Guided Missile
8. First Things First
9. Night Visitors Revisited
10. Finale: Wes And Jimi

Larry Coryell
Lady Coryell (Vanguard, 1969)
The Essential Larry Coryell (Vanguard, 1975)
Planet End (Vanguard, 1975)

On these three classic Vanguard releases, veteran guitarist Larry Coryell's work moves through electric jazz, 60s rock, and proto-fusion before settling into the raucous 70s fusion most often associated with his name. Lady Coryell opens with five vocal tracks in a very 60s electric guitar / rock organ style. The record picks up dramatically over the last five instrumental tracks, including edgy fusion and bouncy electric jazz, and one track features Coltrane's rhythm section of Elvin Jones on drums and Jimmy Garrison on bass. The sound of the instruments marks any old recording, but the 60s rock songs with vocals sound rather dated while the jazz and fusion tunes still retain a timeless musical feel.

The Essential Larry Coryell compilation covers this same late 60s period with two tracks from Lady Coryell, but it also includes the track "Scotland I" from Coryell's proto-fusion group Count's Jam Band. With this group, Coryell and saxophonist Steve Marcus were exploring the intersection of rock and jazz in the late 60s even before Miles Davis's second quintet morphed into his fusion band. The Essential Larry Coryell touches on this pioneering work despite including another bland vocal track also from that era.

The Essential Larry Coryell also includes one track featuring John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham of Mahavishnu Orchestra, from Coryell's 1970 Spaces album, and one track with Coryell's fusion band The Eleventh House from the 1974 album Introducing the Eleventh House. These two groups each play two of the four full band tracks on the Planet End EP of outtakes from previous sessions, and together these six tunes show Coryell at his early 70s fusion zenith. The influence of the chaotic Mahavishnu Orchestra sound is undeniable, particularly in the tracks with Cobham on drums, but Coryell's compositional style diverges from McLaughlin's in several key ways. Coryell includes trumpet in the instrumentation, a traditional sound bent to the frantic fusion pace with the guitars and screeching electric piano, and his songs move through a more blues-based chord framework rather than the angular atonality of Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Although other guitarists like McLaughlin emerged from the fusion age with far more fame, Larry Coryell's fusion work after moving from 60s rock and electric jazz plants him firmly in the leading edge of the early 70s fusion innovation. Classic fusion fans should definitely check out the Planet End EP to hear Coryell with McLaughlin and with his own band The Eleventh House, and listeners wanting a broader taste of Coryell's late 60s / early 70s work should also check out The Essential Larry Coryell.

Reviewed by Scott Andrews []

More Info:


Larry Coryell / Steve Marcus / Steve Smith / Kai Eckhardt Count's Jam Band Reunion (Tone Center, 2001)

Guitarist Larry Coryell and saxophonist Steve Marcus helped begin the exploration of the boundary between jazz and rock in the late 60s with the early fusion group Count's Rock Band. They recorded several records and then split up, all before 1969. Coryell went on to lead his own fusion band Eleventh House, while Marcus became the featured sax soloist in the Buddy Rich Big Band. After a chance meeting at a concert in 1999, Coryell and Marcus decided to reunite as the founding members of Count's. Joined by drummer Steve Smith, with whom each had played recently on separate Tone Center label fusion projects, and bassist Kai Eckhardt, who had played with Smith in Vital Information, Coryell and Marcus recorded Count's Jam Band Reunion. Count's Jam Band Reunion swells with a spontaneous, alive groove under soaring guitar and soprano sax melodies. Coryell's songwriting, as the sole writer behind almost all of the tunes, bounds with clever grooves in odd meters that feel completely natural in the skilled hands of Smith and Eckhardt. The songs range from classic fusion styles, like the 17:8 time groove of "Scotland," to the more traditional electric jazz sound of "Rhapsody & Blues," Coryell's variation on the Gershwin classic "Rhapsody in Blue." The acoustic guitar and sax duet "Pedals and Suspensions" breathes a mellow contrast between the frantic fusion numbers like "Scotland" and "Reunion." Coryell moves flawlessly from clean jazz chords to wailing fusion leads, matched in ferocity by Marcus' sax. Eckhardt's bass, and writing, provide a solid foundation, with his fretless growl in places recalling moments on Gary Willis' solo records. Smith's tasteful and precise drumming frames the whole sound while letting Coryell and Marcus take the forefront. Pianist Jeff Chimenti adds a more classic jazz timbre and considerable sonic depth on four tracks, a clever arrangement idea with only one rhythm chording instrument, Coryell's guitar, in the band. Coryell and Marcus may have set out just to have fun playing music reminiscent of their 60s band on Count's Jam Band Reunion, but they end up also capturing an energetic and unprompted vibe in catchy but clever fusion songwriting. Count's Jam Band Reunion stands as a great modern fusion record on its own, irrespective of the history of the musicians and their music. Reviewed by Scott Andrews [] More Info: Lineup: Larry Coryell - Guitar Steve Marcus - Guitar Steve Smith - Drums Kai Eckhardt - Bass Jeff Chimenti - piano (guest)





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