Saturday, April 22, 2017

Larry Coryell - 1978 [2017] "European Impressions"

This record, half of which was recorded live at the 1978 Montreux Jazz Festival, remains one of the finest documents in the genre of steel-string acoustic jazz guitar. Along with John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola, and a small handful of others, Larry Coryell was a major figure in the field, which saw its heyday throughout much of the '70s and '80s. Here was a new sort of guitar hero, not wailing in front of a wall of Marshall amps, but sitting alone with an acoustic guitar (often a round-backed Ovation), playing music rooted in the improvisational aesthetics of jazz but which often veered all over the stylistic map -- classical, flamenco, 12-tone, rock, and just about anything else. Coryell's opening statement, "Toronto Under the Sign of Capricorn," fits the bill to a T: Beginning with cryptic, atonal lines and rhythmically off-kilter phrases, the piece then segues into a slow, romantic melody before it erupts into a rousing vamp punctuated with flurries of speed-picked, 16th-note fills. The performance is replete with showmanship, but that's not all there is to it; indeed, Coryell's technique is too rough-hewn to be thrilling all on its own. What makes the piece so interesting is its melodic integrity, rhythmic energy, and three-tiered structure. One hears similar qualities on the other two live tracks, "For Philip and Django" and "Rodrigo Reflections," and on three of the four studio cuts, "April Seventh," "Variations on a Theme," and the wonderfully dreamy "Copenhagen Impressions." While one may expect a reversion to straight-ahead jazz on the Horace Silver medley "Song for My Father/Sister Sadie," Coryell doggedly remolds these hard bop standards into his own kind of acoustic guitar music. Essential for guitar buffs, although one has to dig around to locate a copy.

This album is yet another acoustic guitar album that LC has gotten us used to in the late 70's, and here half the record is a recording of his third appearance at the Montreux festival in the summer of 78. The first time around (71), he had come with a rock group, the second time around (74), he was with his Eleventh House group, and this time around, he came as a solo acoustic guitarist, again reflecting well what he was up to at the time. With an alpine artwork and a long-haired Larry hunched over his Ovation guitar on the back cover, this album is an unaccompanied straight acoustic guitar album, the typical stuff LC was into in the late 70's, somewhere between Reinhardt and acoustic blues-jazz. Better investigate Lion & Ram album, to see if you could be into this one.

An all acoustic/instrumental album, the first three tracks of which were recorded live at Montreux.  The last 4 are studio tracks, later included on Coryell's "Tributaries" album.
A very scary album in that this man is definitely a virtuoso and pulls all the stops on his acoustic guitar.  This most underrated guitar player can surely do it all.
I wouldn't call the studio tracks very memorable unlike the live ones that are memorable, so this is more of an album that has you appreciating the acoustic guitar more than appreciating the songwriting.
Everything from fiery quickness to funky subtleness.

Tracks 1 to 3 recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland on July 23, 1978;
Tracks 4 to 7 recorded at Soundmixers, NYC on August 17, 1978.

Tracks Listing

1. Toronto Under The Sign Of Capricorn (8:38)
2. For Philip And Django (4:31)
3. Rodrigo Reflections (7:21)
4. April Seventh (5:50)
5. Silver Medley: Song For My Father / Sister Sadie (5:22)
6. Copenhagen Impressions (4:00)
7. Variations On A Theme (2:47)

Total Time 38:29

Line-up / Musicians

- Larry Coryell / solo acoustic guitar


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  2. Thank you! I remember my brother bought this album back when it came out and we loved listening to it. I am glad to hear it again after so many years.