Sunday, April 5, 2009

The genius of Larry Coryell

My friends, family and musical acquaintances know what a huge influence Larry Coryell has been on my work and in my development as a guitarist. I have had the good fortune of being able to spend some time over the years speaking with Mr. Coryell and not only discussing some musical things with him but also to thank him for his work and to express to him my gratitude at his influence on my own playing. When I say influence, I mean that in the best sense of the word. I think that many guitarists confuse influence with emulate or copy and I do not think I fall into that category. Mr. Coryell is a genius and can do things that I could only dream about on the instrument. His recordings hold a substantial place in my collection and his books are also prominent on my shelves, well worn from many viewings and of course of this voluminous output, I have my favorites, things I come back to again and again. While a student at GIT I transcribed some of Mr. Coryells work on the album European Impressions, particularly Toronto Under the Sign of Capricorn. Parts of this piece were also done by David Pritchard and included in Mr. Coryell's book first published in 1979. The qualities that endear me to Mr. Coryell's work are not only his techinical prowess which is beyond words, but his daring. Mr. Coryell tries things that most people wouldn't dare. He's done solo versions of major works by Stravinsky, Copland, Gershwin and others. In his improvisations, I often had the feeling that I was riding a train and we were careening into a corner and whether we would stay on the tracks was definitely in question. Sometimes, we didn't, most of the time we did and the experience was incredible.

Starting with the Lion and the Ram and proceeding thru the album Bolero, Mr. Coryell produced a body of work that to me, is nothing short of incredble and should be studied by any aspiring guitarist regardless of style. The passion, creativity and artistic abandon that is present on these recordings stands the test of time and shows how much of today's work is "safe" and "takes the easy way out".

Coryell doesn't get the accolades of John McLaughlin or some of the other more well known players, but when you see Bill Frisell or Al DiMeola or other younger guitarists talking about who influenced them, who was exciting to them, Coryell always comes up.

I encourage you to check out this genius' work. Here are some cd's I know are still available and you should check them out, all are excellent:

1. Tributaries - with the late Joe Beck and John Scofield (this has the studio cuts from European Impressions on it also)
2. Standing Ovation - A great great record, not a clunker in the set.
3. Bolero - If you are new to Mr. Coryell I suggest this album. It is varied, substantial and a personal favorite.

I'm still anxious to get Lion and the Ram which is not available, nor is European Impressions in it's entriety. If you have a turntable, get the lp on ebay or something and check it out.


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