Friday, March 3, 2017

Larry Coryell & the Eleventh House - 2014 "January 1975" (Livelove Series Vol 1)

In the 1970s, Germany's Radio Bremen simulcast a series of modern jazz concerts from all across the spectrum, and wisely archived them. Record producer Consul Bodo Jacoby was looking for a new project after losing the rights to reissue the MPS catalog and recalled them. His Promising Music label is issuing a number of these vintage performances in what he calls the Livelove series, of which January 1975 is the first volume. This date, captured via mobile truck by the engineers of the radio station, features Larry Coryell & the Eleventh House in full flight, between the band's debut album Introducing the Eleventh House and its sophomore offering, Level One. It is the lineup from the latter record performing here. Trumpeter Michael Lawrence replaces Randy Brecker, and bassist John Lee takes over from Danny Trifan. Keyboardist Mike Mandel and drummer Alphonse Mouzon are mainstays with Coryell. While this is most certainly jazz rock fusion, it is decidedly more on the jazz tip than most of what falls under the heading. Lawrence's trumpet and Coryell's guitar consistently cover the front line of compositions such as "Eleventh House Blues" which, despite the wah-wah blues-rock intro, walks a tough bop line. The sprawling "The Other Side" uses a tight head and middle eight before moving off into the galactic regions of fusion. Ballads such as "Diedra" showcase the kind of detailed lyricism this quintet was capable of. "Julie La Belle" is an unaccompanied acoustic guitar solo that reveals the depth of the influence Brazilian and Spanish masters have had in Coryell's style. But there are also tracks that flaunt their rock dynamics such as the brooding "Low Lee Tah," which erupts with Lawrence's bleating solo halfway through before being answered in call and response by Coryell on the highwire. Mandel's Rhodes playing on "Suite (Entrance/Repose/Exit)" is the unexpected anchor here, creating space as well as harmonic and chromatic intrigue. The rhythm section doesn't so much hold down the fray as push it forward into white heat -- check Lee's intense conversation with Lawrence at the midpoint before Coryell reenters. Mouzon is on fire throughout. This is a stunning show, on par with anything by Mahavishnu Orchestra or Return to Forever; more rooted in jazz. If January 1975 is any indication of the performance quality of this vault series, there is much to celebrate.

Guitarist Larry Coryell is unquestionably one of the pioneers of jazz/rock fusion, incorporating rock elements as early as the mid-1960s with the group Free Spirits, and later with vibraphonist Gary Burton. He never attained the recognition of many who followed, but the Eleventh House was an attempt to attract the same audience as groups like John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, and Chick Corea's Return to Forever. The Eleventh House that played Bremen in 1975 was the same group that had recorded the group's second studio album Level One (Arista, 1975), with trumpeter Mike Lawrence replacing Randy Brecker and bassist John Lee replacing Danny Trifan. Original members keyboardist Mike Mandel and drummer Alphonse Mouzon (as well as Coryell himself) were still on board.

The set includes five tunes from Introducing the Eleventh House (Vanguard, 1974), three from Level One, a single track from Coryell's album The Restful Mind (Vanguard, 1975), and three that were previously unrecorded. Two of them later turned up on the live album At Montreux (Vanguard, 1978). The band comes charging in with the high energy "Bird Fingers," but then takes a surprising mellow turn. Mike Mandel's ballad "Diedra" is followed by "Gratitude "A So Low,"" the first of two Coryell solo performances (as well as the first of the punning song titles).

"Low Lee Tah" continues with Coryell alone, but the band kicks back in before long. Alphonse Mouzon's "Funky Waltz" bears a very strong resemblance to Weather Report's "Boogie Woogie Waltz." Mouzon had left Weather Report long before they recorded it, so maybe it's a coincidence—and it is indeed a funky waltz. Coryell plays "Julie La Belle" (from The Restful Mind) unaccompanied, throwing in a quote from "Scotland I," originally recorded on the proto-Eleventh House album Offering (Vanguard, 1972).

Keyboardist Mike Mandel also gets a solo spot for his tune "Untitled Thoughts." Then the whole group jumps into "Adam Smasher," and they absolutely rock out. Of all the fusion guitarists of this era, Coryell is the one with the strongest flavor of pure American rock and roll guitar in his playing, when he wants it. This tune also encapsulates the difference between these live versions and the studio originals. They're only slightly longer, for the most part—so the musicians aren't stretching out significantly—but the energy level is ramped way up.

There's a wonderful quote in the CD booklet from an audience member, just as the second song was starting: "You have to play even louder." This was a band that loved to do the stereotypical loud and fast fusion thing, but even in this outdoor concert setting they weren't afraid to mix it up. They were also more of a collective than the other leading fusion groups, with compositional input from most of the members.

They were a group that deserved wider recognition—as does Larry Coryell himself—and this live recording makes a strong case. If you were there, it's a fine souvenir. If you weren't, it's a potent reminder of how vibrant early fusion could be, before it became overwhelmed by cliche and excess.

Really great work from Larry Coryell and his Eleventh House combo – a set that's maybe even harder and funkier than we remember from any of the group's studio work! The performance was caught live by German radio in the mid 70s – and is a wonderfully-recorded date that has the guitar of Larry Coryell coming out with all these amazing fuzzy tones, next to killer keyboard work from Mike Mandel – who really wins us all over again with is work here! Coryell's got lots of sinister tones in his guitar, but is never too rockish – and the rest of the group features Mike Lawrence on trumpet, John Lee on bass, and Alfonse Mouzon on some mighty heavy drums – on titles that include "Julie La Belle", "The Other Side", "Bird Fingers", "Diedra", "Low Lee Tah", "Funky Waltz", and "Adam Smasher".

When in 1975 Larry Coryell went on tour with his short-lived all-star group The Eleventh House, the jazz-rock scene had just reached its climax. Although Larry is considered by many historians to be one of the first to melt jazz with rock, he never entered the rostrum as winner (one could guess, that his 'mistake' was not to be in any of the Miles Davis groups). With this recording this might change in retrospect. Very few acts of that era were that powerful. Hymns, simple hit melodies, funk grooves, blues rock guitar, 70ies synth sounds, and a lot of fun and entertainment were the ingredients of a concert evening to be remembered. The material chosen was like 'The Best of the Eleventh House'. While many other fusion protagonists with a jazz background used rock, blues, and funk elements, thinking this might make their music more accessible (some slipping towards easy listening, others were just unable to create a rock feeling), Larry Coryell & the Eleventh House used all these styles at well-balanced eye level.

Track Listing:

01 Bird Fingers;
02 Diedra;
03 Gratitude "A So Low";
04 Low Lee Tah;
05 Funky Waltz;
06 Suite (Entrance / Repose / Exit);
07 Julie la Belle;
08 The Other Side;
09 Tamari;
10 Untitled Thoughts;
11 Adam Smasher;
12 The Eleventh House Blues.


Larry Coryell: guitar;
Mike Lawrence: trumpet, flugelhorn;
Mike Mandel: keyboards;
John Lee: bass guitar;
Alphonse Mouzon: drums.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. The links 2 and 3 are broken, please reupload. TX.

  2. Thank you Crimhead420, I was unaware of this release very much appreciated.

  3. Hi Stan. The death of Larry was very sad. You know that I really like the music of Larry and I know that you too. I hope you are well. My best spanish greetings.
    RIP Larry Coryell

  4. thanks, here's my rec of larry at jazz alley

  5. The links are broken, please reupload. TX


  7. Thank you for sharing.

    RIP Larry. Thank you for all the great music.

  8. Stunning. Absolutely stunning. Many thanks. Is there any chance of the Level One album getting posted here, too?


  9. ¡Excelente blog!

    ¡Gracias por compartir!