Saturday, January 30, 2016

Larry Coryell & Steve Khan - 1977 [1990] "Two For The Road"

Two for the Road is a live album by the American guitarists Larry Coryell and Steve Khan, which was released by Arista Records in 1977.

Intermittently on the road as an acoustic duo between gaps in the schedules of their respective ultra-hip fusion bands, Larry Coryell and Steve Khan managed to record several shows and then panned the tape stream to find the nuggets for posterity. There are choices that might have been made out of the fashions of the day, such as the version of Chick Corea's "Spain" that opens the album's first side. Thankfully there are also selections that are here because both guitarists must have realized they were playing magnificently.
Coryell's flair for Wayne Shorter extends beyond simply mastering the tunes to conceptualizing unique guitar settings. Parts of "Juju"'s head are pronounced in simple, chiming harmonics, a delightful way of pointing out that these players understand the guitar in its totality, not just the parts of it that can be used to impress speedfreaks. The hot version of "Footprints" doesn't really express the mystery of Shorter's original mood, yet is terrifically in line with the Django Reinhardt approach to playing a tune, once again full of the kinds of activities fans of acoustic guitar music will find pleasurable.
"St. Gallen" is, in some ways, a remarkable performance. The long introduction sounds like a solo from Coryell, parts of which might be the missing link between him and Derek Bailey. An episode thick with minor seconds and low, throbbing dissonance is only one of many stops on a route that in some ways is as breathtaking as the "milk run" that leaves the St. Gallen station and heads into the Swiss Alps, stopping at farmhouses along the way to pick up fresh dairy shipments. Prior to evoking this image, the piece in its initial moments includes passages of purely show-off rapidity culminating in a lethal swipe at the bridge, the equivalent of a mad critic throwing a knife at a fusion guitarist mid-solo stream.
Khan's admiration for his partner is evident from the liner notes alone. His own style is edgy and observant, and while he doesn't sound simply like someone trying to keep up, he too easily agrees to participate in moments of pieces that come off as more or less typical jamming, such as "Son of Stiff Neck." As for the previously mentioned "Spain," it's too bad they went there -- although anybody performing on this scene during this era was expected to play this "In the Midnight Hour" of jazz standards. A chord emphasized much beyond its importance immediately sets the stage for a flat performance in which the main question listeners might ask themselves is why are there so many notes in the theme -- not the desired reaction when performing a head. The live recording quality is excellent, the tracks fading quickly when the applause begins.

Why this recording is not on CD is a mystery to me. I bought the original LP when it first came out and was astounded by the level of playing. Thankfully, I have some of the tracks from this record on tape, but will order the vinyl again at some point.

No offense to fans of Ovation guitars, but I love the fact that the instruments on this live recording are ASW (all solid wood, with the attendant sound). The recording quality is good, and though the playing is of a highly virtuosic level it does not suffer from technical sterility. "Footprints" is my favorite of the tracks. I remember when this album came out many electric players were floored to hear jazz played like this on acoustic guitars.

As the previous reviewer has noted, this was a remarkable album when released in the late 1970s. To this day, I am amazed at the technical AND musical accomplishments of Larry Coryell. A very rare individual indeed. Here he is astounding along with fine support from fellow fusion player Steve Khan. Guitar enthusiasts take note, if you can find a copy of this recording, by all means grab it. It holds up extremely well. By the way, I would like to know why the Arista records portion of Larry's catalogue is still in some kind of musical limbo. The artist and music fans alike deserve better. P.S. Nice cover artwork. 

Track listing

    "Spain" (Chick Corea, JoaquĆ­n Rodrigo) – 5:20
    "Bouquet" (Bobby Hutcherson) – 5:30
    "Son of Stiff Neck" (Larry Coryell, Steve Khan) – 5:35
    "JuJu" (Wayne Shorter) – 3:08
    "St Gallen" (Larry Coryell) – 7:10
    "Footprints" (Wayne Shorter) – 5:30
    "General Moto’s Well Laid Plan" (Steve Swallow) – 5:07
    "Toronto under the Sign of Capricorn" (Larry Coryell) – [Bonus Track] 8:38
    "For Philip and Django" (Larry Coryell) – [Bonus Track] 4:32
    "Rodrigo Reflections" (Larry Coryell) – [Bonus Track] 7:22


    Larry Coryell – guitar
    Steve Khan – guitar



  2. this brings back some memories thank you sharing this one !