Sunday, October 4, 2015

Larry Coryell - 1972 "Barefoot Boy"

Produced by Bob Thiele and recorded at Electric Lady studios with engineer Eddie Kramer, Barefoot Boy is one of Larry Coryell's finest recordings as a leader. "Gypsy Queen" was recorded prior to bassist Mervin Bronson's arrival at the studio, and features the percussion section locking into a groove over which Coryell lays down a riff and Steve Marcus cuts loose with a fiery soprano sax solo. When it's his turn to solo on this opening number, Coryell turns up the heat, sounding like a cross between Jimi Hendrix and Sonny Sharrock. (Coryell played with Sharrock on Herbie Mann's Memphis Underground.) "The Great Escape" finds Coryell cooking over a bass and percussion groove, with Marcus on tenor sax. "Call to the Higher Consciousness" is a side-long 20-minute jam in which all the players take a ride, with Marcus once again cooking on the soprano sax. Roy Haynes is superb throughout, working in tandem with the percussionists to keep the music moving. This recording is a noteworthy example of the possibilities inherent in the early days of fusion, blending the electrifying energy of rock with the improvisational excitement of jazz.

Probably Larry Coryell's most important album outside the Eleventh House efforts, Barefoot Boy is the first truly jazz-rock album of his. Although LC took the Village Gate line-up of Bronson and Wilkinson, he future regular collabs Steve Markus (sax) and his old school friend Mike Mandel (KB) to make a sensational line-up that will make the next few albums' basis. With one of the poorer artwork of his early discography, BB is just three tracks but do they ever smoke, breathing in some cool rapid conga-fuelled rock and swallowing a wild sax and spewing out a torrid incandescent lava flow that will set fire to your speakers if listened to loud, let alone your brain cells.

Indeed the 12-mins Gypsy Queen is a long steady rapid-fire rock beat, but it serves as a base for Markus' absolutely wild sax solo, while Coryell either supports Markus or outdoes him in astounding Hendrix-like solos. The following 8-mins+ Great Escape is a much funkier (but in a very rock way) driven on Bronson's bass, where again LC is pouring his heart into his solo. Somehow the second Traffic line-up (Kwaaku Reebop) is not far away. The flipside is a sidelong extrapolation of The Higher Consciousness, where Markus and Coryell directly take the track into pure Nucleus-like fusion with Mandel pulling the track later in a Coltrane mode, although he won't match Tyner's brilliance, but still manage a good rendition. Too bad the track is plagued with an almost 4 minutes drum solo (Haynes is no Elvin Jones), but once the track resumes, complete madness has taken over the musos

Although LC had made some terrific albums up to this one, they were, shall we say a bit in the Hendrix mode, something that dramatically changes with BB. Well LC had found a stable group and it would be the same line-up to appear on next year's just as superb Offering and the much poorer Real Great Escape, before LC will take Mandel to found The Eleventh House. Possibly LC's crowning achievement, this album is an easy five star. 

I was privileged to see Larry Coryell several times in New York during the years that they recorded "Barefoot Boy." This studio album comes as close to a live performance as any I have ever heard. "Barefoot Boy" is, hands down, THE BEST Coryell you'll ever hear. He has evolved through many phases, and is still quite active today, but the late 60's--early 70's Coryell remains his finest. This music is called "jazz-rock fusion," but it is much more jazz than rock. For sheer wailing power, you can't beat it. If you only buy one CD this year, make it this one.

A lesser-known but essential fusion record. Few have touched the energy of jazz-rock cosmic explorations more than Larry Coryell during his alcohol fueled mid-70s heyday. In the spirit of Mahavishnu Orchestra's "Inner Mounting Flame" or Return To Forever's "Light as a Feather", "Barefoot Boy " thrusts the listener into a organic ebb and tide of electric explosion and jazz introspection. Backed by the solid and funky rhythm section of drummer Roy Haynes, bassist Mervin Bronson, Coryell and soprano sax player Steve Marcus trade scorching sequences of notes.
The album's first track, "Gypsy Queen", is a cosmic spin-off of Gabor Szabo's composition. "The Great Escape" is rooted in deep funk and an unorthodox rhythm pattern. Timed at just long that 20 minutes, "Call to Higher Consciouness" exposes the band's dynamism. The melodic slow burning track lives up it's name. Barefoot Boy is essential for any complete jazz fusion or guitar hero collection. 

Tracks Listing

1. Gypsy Queen ( 11:50 )
2. The Great Escape ( 8:39 )
3. Call To Higher Consciousness ( 20:00 )

Total time : 40:29

Recorded at Ladyland Studios 1971

Line-up / Musicians

- Larry Coryell / guitar
- Steve Marcus / soprano saxophone, side 1 tracks 1,2
tenor sax, side 2
- Mervin Bronson / bass, side 1, track 2, side 2
- Mike Mandel / piano side 2
- Roy Haynes / drums
- Lawrence Kilian / congas
- Harry Wilkinson / percussion



  2. Wow, amazing post! Just discovered your blog. Thanks a lot, Crimhead420!

  3. r.i.p. larry coryell