Friday, May 7, 2010

A fine CD from Larry Coryell

It's been instructive to revisit jazz guitarist Larry Coryell after a decade or in other neighborhoods. A pioneer of jazz-fusion, this musician is, at his  best, wildly inventive, cranky, blistering and rapid fire, someone akin to Jeff Beck in ways of attacking an improvisation from unexpected angles of attack. Like Beck as well, his body of work is erratic, and one wonders if Coryell might have become stuck on the fence sometime in mid-career, performing an unsatisfying amalgam of mainstream bop standards, pop-jazz and thud worthy, unmotivated funk and rock blends. Fortunately, age and good sense has toughened the guitarist's technique; his album Tricycles and the more recent Earthquake at the Avalon, are both superlative examples of this man's ability to display a pristine delicacy on ballads, fleet-fingered flurries on the accelerated compositions, and a hard-nosed edge on the blues. Of the two albums, Tricycles gets the higher marks, as Coryell has a sweetly trio in bassist Mark Egan and drummer Paul Wertico bring off a varied set of styles with the ease of a unit that knows the strengths and nuances of each other's respective approaches. Coryell's guitar fairly bristles and sparkles through his rich chord voicings and pristine essays, with Egan and Wertico upping the rhythmic ante and lowering it again as the major and minor turns of the songs change the mood. There is a richness in the performance that suggests a larger group. Recommended.