Monday, April 10, 2017

Larry Coryell - 1972 [2001] "Offering"

Offering is Larry Coryell's seventh album as a leader. The album was released 1972 on the Vanguard label featuring Steve Marcus soprano sax, Mervin Bronson on bass, Mike Mandel playing electric piano with fuzz-wah and Harry Wilkinson on drums. The album was produced by Daniel Weiss and engineered by Jeff Zaraya. The album reached number 20 on the Jazz Albums chart.

 Recorded in 1972, guitarist Larry Coryell's Offering has often been overlooked because it was the album that was released just before the debut of his legendary fusion band the Eleventh House. It's too bad, too, since Coryell's playing here is so inspired and free of the intellectual trappings of some of his later work. The band on Offering is a crack jazz-rock outfit made up of drummer Harry Wilkinson, bassist Melvyn Bronson, soprano saxophonist Steve Marcus, and electric pianist Mike Mandel (also a founding member of the Eleventh House). The vibe on this set is akin to the rugged jazz-rock forging of Soft Machine beginning on Fourth. And while it's tempting to lump this set in with the rest of the fused-out fare of the time, Offering is a distinctly -- and consciously -- more melodic record than those issued by Coryell's contemporaries at the time. Compositions such as "Foreplay," with its loping soprano and keyboard lines, stand apart from most of the Miles Davis-inspired crowd (Hancock, Corea, et. al), and "Ruminations" with its knotty, striated bop lines, comes on strong from the middle of three entwining harmonic figures to reach out and create a melodic framer from the pathos; Coryell's solo, which is equal parts Jimi Hendrix and Sonny Sharrock, is a wonderfully scorching and elusive sprite. Beginning with "Scotland I," which closes out side one, the jams get a bit more abstract and a bit more involved with the primacy of improvisation without losing their lyrical sensibilities. Offering is, in its own way, every bit as strong as the Eleventh House's debut and deserves to be considered hand in hand with it.

Years before the term jazz-rock fusion existed, American guitarist Larry Coryell was playing a pioneering role. As early as 1966, Coryell co-founded Free Spirits, an early jazz-rock band, before recording three seminal progressive jazz albums with Gary Burton. In 1969, prior to recording the first album under his own name, Coryell toured with Cream bassist Jack Bruce, Jimi Hendrix drummer Mitch Mitchell, as well as keyboardist Mike Mandel, combining the influences of rock into a jazz framework. By the early 1970's, Coryell put together a remarkable band of his own including Harry Wilkinson on drums, Mervin Bronson on bass, Steve Marcus on soprano sax, and Mike Mandel on electric piano. During the next several years, these musicians developed a hybrid of jazz and rock, free of preconceptions. The results displayed plenty of virtuosity, but were also interspersed with enough of the fiery playing style of rock musicians to attract a younger audience not as comfortable with the overly intellectualized forms of jazz. Coryell's group, known collectively as Foreplay, recorded several groundbreaking albums in the early 1970s, proving that these musicians had a gift for invention, some of it quirky, but nonetheless impressive from both a technical and musical standpoint. By 1973, a peak year of creativity in the jazz-rock fusion movement, thanks in no small part to the innovations of Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report, Coryell continued blazing his own path, free of formulaic limitations. Recording the final album with the Foreplay lineup, 1973's "The Real Great Escape," Coryell embraced jazz, rock, pop, electronics and he was even taking the questionable plunge of singing, a bold move to say the least. By the end of 1973, Coryell would revamp the band, only retaining the services of keyboardist Mike Mandel. Future legendary trumpet player Randy Brecker and the powerhouse rhythm section of bassist Danny Triffin and drummer Alphonse Mouzon fleshed out his next band, The Eleventh House, which would become Coryell's most recognized and commercially successful venture. Their debut album, 1974's "Introducing The Eleventh House," contained some of the most adventurous and technically hypercharged playing of Coryell's career.
Which brings us to this performance, recorded at The State University of New York, when Coryell and Foreplay opened for the Mahavishnu Orchestra. This recording captures Coryell at a crossroads, performing some of the finest material from both "Offering" and "The Real Great Escape," as well as developing material that would feature on the first Eleventh House album the following year. This recording serves as a musical bridge between two of the most memorable stages of Coryell's career.
They kick things off with Coryell's composition, "Yin" a song that would become a highlight of his next album with Eleventh House. Comparisons to the original Mahavishnu Orchestra are inevitable and Coryell's intensity and compositional framework are elaborate and just as melodically sophisticated. However, the comparisons end on "All My Loves Laughter," a Jim Webb song that not only features Coryell on vocals, but also clearly veers off in a smooth bluesy direction less interested in acrobatic solos than group improvisation. The next three pieces, all of them Coryell compositions, display the exceptional improvisational skills of the group, beginning with "Foreplay," a signature track from 1972's "Offering," and the title track from "The Real Great Escape." Dipping back to 1969 material, they deliver an exceptional reading of "Lady Coryell." Here, Coryell's unerring sense of swing, finesse and brilliant, blues-inspired style are undeniable. These performances all display what an impressive band this was. In both tone and execution, Marcus' solos are exceptional, Mandel's processed keyboard playing is humorous and original and the rhythm section of Bronson and Wilkinson are relentlessly inventive.
Also featuring a vocal from Coryell is "Makes Me Wanna Shout," one of the most overtly non-jazz based pieces on "The Real Great Escape, but incomplete due to tape stock running out. When the recording resumes, the group is blazing into a continuous sequence that begins with a second high velocity reading of "Yin," which then segues directly into an unidentified number, serving as a showcase for Mandel's fresh imaginative keyboard playing. This continuous sequence (nearly 25 minutes altogether) culminates with the Harry Wilkinson composition and title track from "Offering." Wilkinson's crackling and pummeling make for an engaging call-and-response counterpoint to Coryell's solos and at nearly twice the length of the studio recording, contains some of the most free-form performances of the night.
After introducing the band members, Coryell announces that they will conclude the set with another Mike Mandel composition, "Joyride." Considerably different from the version that would surface on the Eleventh House album the following year, the compositional framework is elaborate and melodically sophisticated, with Coryell and Mandel's dynamic interaction and intricate playing at the fore. If one listens closely, hints of Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone From The Sun" can almost be discerned amidst the fiery fretwork. This is a blazing conclusion to the set, leaving the audience clamoring for more.
For many, Coryell has never sounded better than during his tenure with these particular musicians. They are all inspired and inventive but Coryell is clearly the front man here. Although his next band, The Eleventh House would become one of the most famous fusion bands of the 1970s, here Coryell still stands independent from the standard jazz-rock approach many musicians were embracing. Although he does emulate certain elements of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Coryell had long been working in an idiom that pre-dated McLaughlin's innovations. Though Coryell remains one of the most creative and accomplished electric guitarists, he would never achieve the popularity of many less capable but better promoted musicians. Other groups would attain much greater commercial success, but there's no mistaking the fact that Coryell was very much a visionary in his own right. Some of Coryell's most entrancing melodies, lightning fast phrases and spectacular solos can be found right here, in addition to a band capable of playing with guts and urgency. This live recording captures the tail end of an era when Coryell's music was most free of preconceptions and ripe with creativity.

A bit overlooked,this recording. In my opinion the best Coryell Jazz-album.
Here is a fierce and strong enthusiastic playing to be heard.
No boundaries and this band was clearly going to storm and change the world with their music!
Good recording, great sound. Listened to it a thousand times!!
The real thing for jazz-rock lovers and it was deary, new and fresh in it's time of coming out. Maybe too good!? . After this LP (Now replaced for a CD, because the LP became more cracking than sound after all the parties it had to turn trough..) I always tracked and listened everything coming out from Coryell.. In the hope that he would revisit this great music of course.. Well,he did a lot and became well known, but this particular energy-giving level never returned. The sax of Marcus was an ideal equal partner and Larry a great leader.. The only time he really came very close to a breakthrough towards Influential New Jazz and step-up of his clearly rich-gifted personal musicianship was on this recording. Very sad for us that they didn't challenge it out. On the nice but then strongly Miles-influenced(although re-issued on CD, very hard to find) "Barefoot Boy", the force comes back.. Next came "The Eleventh House". I personally think Coryell became a bit explored and over winged by the other members of that band. Good but not original like this one. Later on in his musical search he made recordings with Indian Masters that came out real nice and contemplative. 

Back in the early 70's, Coryell put together a strange little band that, in addition to himself, included Harry Wilkinson on drums, Mervin Bronson on bass, Steve Marcus on soprano sax, and Mike Mandel on, of all things, electric piano with fuzz-wah. Those were the heady days before fusion became a formulaic and boring refuge for technically hypercharged cokeheads, the days when people who wanted to play both jazz and rock didn't really have preconceptions about what the hybrid should sound like. The result was at times a kind of virtuosic grandiosity, as in Tony Williams' Lifetime's early sessions, with their bad-poetry raps interspersed with fiery playing by Williams, Larry Young, and John McLaughlin. At other times, in the quirkiest way, players hit the mark. Offering is one of those records. Wilkinson is no virtuoso, but his snapping and pounding make quite an interesting call-and-response counterpoint to Coryell's solos; each had an exceptional ear for the other. In tone as well as execution, Marcus is exceptional, so much so that I wonder what he's doing now; Bronson is quite good(listen to his bent-note but solid backing on "Begger's Chant"), and Mandel's playing is humorous and bizarre in a kind of Don Preston-Zappa way. Coryell has never been better. His playing is relentlessly inventive. Listening to the astounding accumulation of ideas and the beautiful architectonics of his solos on "Beggar's Chant," "Foreplay," and the title track, I'm taken back to those days when Coryell was jazz-rock music's hidden treasure. The current crop of guitarists of any stripe would benefit from an attentive listen. Some of Coryell's most innovative playing on record.
Tracks Listing

1. Foreplay (8:10)
2. Ruminations (4:17)
3. Scotland I (6:41)
4. Offering (6:46)
5. The Meditation Of November 8th (5:12)
6. Beggar`s Chant (8:03)

Total time 39:09

Line-up / Musicians

- Larry Coryell / guitar
- Mike Mandel / electric piano with fuzz-wah
- Steve Marcus / soprano saxophone
- Mervin Bronson / bass
- Harry Wilkinson / drums


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. contemporary jazz album shows another possible way through which music can go. It is a great comprehensive work. Larry confirmed expression unique position in the world of jazz-rock music. The song "Scotland 1" goes beyond genre and elevates the soul to a higher level of confidence.


  4. Thank you very much!

  5. This may well be Coryell's strongest, most powerful and best album.

  6. S. maybe you got next Larry Coryell's albums:

    Difference (1978)
    European Impressions (1978)
    Larry Coryell/Philip Catherine/Joachim Kuhn Live! (1980)
    Comin' Home (1984) ?

    Thanks in advance!

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Fantastic! THANK YOU for sharing! This is the album that got me really hooked on Larry Coryell back around 1986... just before Berklee!

  9. Jazz critics generally give "The Real Great Escape" the best rating of the three albums by this line-up - but I prefer this album to that and to "Barefoot Boy".