His compositions were alive with vitality and his improvisations bristled with musicality. John Wheatcroft pays tribute to Larry Coryell.
John Wheatcroft with another tribute, this time to the much missed fusion giant, Larry Coryell.
We were saddened to hear of the recent passing of American jazz guitarist Larry Coryell. Larry had a glittering career throughout his 73 years, touring and recording with players as diverse as Stéphane Grappelli, Chet Baker, Charles Mingus, Gary Burton and many more. He featured in a selection of successful guitar duos and trios, recording straight-ahead jazz with Emily Remler, acoustic crossover with Paco Di Lucia and John McLaughlin and in a Latin inspired trio with Biréli Lagrene and Al Di Meola. For many, however, Larry was the ‘godfather of fusion’, pioneering a mix of jazz and rock with his group, The Eleventh House.
As you might imagine with a player who’s discography includes a solo rendition of Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring right next to an album devoted to pianist Bill Evans, and another entitled Bolero, Coryell’s interests were vast and varied. His playing had vitality, intelligence and beauty and his compositions and improvisations were bristling with musicality. There was a sense of authenticity to everything he played and he will be sorely missed by the jazz community.
While Larry sounded great in every ensemble, he was particularly at home in the company of other guitarists and it is from these settings, duo and trios, that we’ve derived this month’s examples.
Coryell possessed considerable picking technique, generally choosing alternate picking, switching to sweeps across multiple strings when appropriate. Some of these are quite fast, so break the longer phrases down into smaller chunks and build up the complete lines over time. The first three examples are based around his duo recordings with Emily Remler; the next three from Larry’s acoustic
We Were dead set on not copying our jazz heroes, because We felt the best Way to honour them Was to develop our oWn voices Larry Coryell playing from Meeting Of The Spirits; the final two originate ffrom the Super Guitar Trio, with Al Di Meola and Biréli Lagrene.
Larry was completely comfortable with silence, and much of his most bombastic, full-on vocabulary is balanced with moments of true calm. These points of punctuation really help to delineate your ideas and guitar players can often underuse rests as a valid and effective musical device when improvising. Remember that in music, the rests are just as important as the notes you play, so use them and, like Larry, use them well.
Larry Coryell in full jazz mode with Super 400