Jazz Rock Pioneer Guitarist Larry Coryell Dies At 73

In 1966 Larry Coryell had an idea. Having played in Rock & Roll bands in his native Seattle in the early Sixties, Coryell spent a couple of years studying jazz in New York and wondered what it would be like if you brought the two kinds of music together.

The blues, rhythm & blues, country, and soul were all being quickly absorbed by “Rock”, but jazz was a different nut to crack. A few bands like the Zombies and the Kinks showed a jazz flair every now and then, but nobody was diving in. Coryell saw an opening.

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He formed a band called The Free Spirits, and the idea was they were going to record contemporary “Rock” material but include extended, jazz-type solos. To be honest, the album Out Of Sight And Sound really isn’t very good. The sound is lousy, the singing isn’t very good and the songs are pretty dated now. But Coryell was onto something and he knew it.

He concluded that Jazz Rock was probably better approached from the Jazz side. This was problematic because in 1967, Jazz looked down on Rock as a primitive form of music. Coryell pressed on and recorded his first solo album Lady Coryell, which included some straight jazz guitar tracks, some Jazz Rock hybrids with vocals, and some deliciously unclassifiable numbers like “Two Minute Classical”.

In 1968 Coryell told The New York Times that “one side of my personality likes the soft stuff, the jazz. The other side likes to play hard things, rock, with big amps. I have to get musicians who can go both ways.” It wouldn’t be long before the world of jazz joined him in his embrace of Rock. In 1970 Miles Davis recorded the seminal album Bitches Brew, and Jazz Rock Fusion was born.

In 1973 Coryell formed the fusion outfit called The Eleventh House, and at full volume these guys could blow the doors off your house. At this point there was still a lot of mixing going on and fusion was fusing with prog, so as is the norm in the history of Rock, labels tended not to tell the whole story. But listen to the track “That’s The Joint” and tell me it doesn’t effing Rock.

After The Eleventh House disbanded in 1975, Larry Coryell became more of a straight jazz stylist, shifting between acoustic and electric guitar, but staying adventurous by playing a wide range of material with a wide range of musicians from all over the world. Check out his 2001 cover of “Tomorrow Never Knows “ and watch his 2014 solo improv and see what an amazing touch this guy had.

Larry Coryell passed away in his hotel room in New York on Sunday in the middle of a concert tour. People are calling him the Father Of Fusion and they are not wrong. But he was surely one of the greatest guitarists who ever lived, and the world is a lesser place without him.


Photo credit: By Brianmcmillen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

One comment to “Jazz Rock Pioneer Guitarist Larry Coryell Dies At 73”
  1. Pingback: Conor Oberst Finally Delivers The Great Album We’ve Been Waiting For | Rocknuts

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