Friday, October 6, 2017

Larry Coryell - 2004 "Tricycles"

Jazz über-guitarist Larry Coryell has been hinting at a studio set like this for a long time now: a solid, top-to-bottom six-string jazz date with a crack rhythm section. Drummer Paul Wertico was on board for the dates that produced the Power Trio album, but the addition of bassist Mark Egan in the studio balances this equation perfectly. Interestingly, Wertico and Egan are both former sidemen from the Pat Metheny Group (albeit at different times). One thing both players have in common, and makes them so integral here, is their love of lyricism. Coryell, who has an astonishing variety of styles at his ready disposal, concentrates on it here in spades. Whether the tune is a smoking, bluesy swinger like the opener "Immer Geradeaus," the ultramodern "Good Citizen Swallow," that graces the edge of soft jazz-rock but never goes there, or the edgy arpeggiattic workout in "Spaces Revisited," the deeply haunting read of Monk's "Round Midnight," Coryell is virtually singing through his instrument. His focus on sonority and lush harmonic extrapolations is given weight by his rhythm section, who dance and weave around one another as a unit. The balance of Tricycles is its most startling aspect. These cats sound like they've been playing together for decades. Nuance, impression, and subtle suggestion are all incorporated in the mix for a wonderful melodic approach to modern creative jazz. The other Monk tune here, "Well You Needn't," is given an entirely new dimension by this approach because Coryell can concentrate on Monk's extrapolated harmonic ideas in his solo, yet roots the entire thing in a deft, gritty, bluesy frame. This is a straight-ahead date that is full of fresh ideas and compositions, as well exciting playing that points toward a new era for Coryell, and it numbers among his finest recordings.

Why guitarist Larry Coryell isn’t a bigger name is a mystery. Emerging in the ‘60s around the same time as John McLaughlin, Coryell’s forays into fusion actually predate McLaughlin’s, first fusing jazz with rock and country sensibilities in Gary Burton’s quartet, most notably on ‘67’s Duster and Lofty Fake Anagram. McLaughlin and Coryell even duked it out on Coryell’s Spaces , considered by many to be a classic fusion record. But Coryell’s career has strangely existed just below the radar, enough of a name to develop a rich body of recorded work, but never quite able to make the leap into broader exposure.
Maybe it’s because at the heart of things Coryell is really a jazzer. As eclectic as he can get, his roots are never far from the forefront. He has a clean but edgy approach that suits a broad range of styles, but harmonically and rhythmically it owes more to the tradition. And while he has straddled the fence on a variety of contexts over the years, there is no doubt on Tricycles , his latest release, where he’d fall if he lost his balance.

Accompanying Coryell are bassist Marc Egan and drummer Paul Wertico, both alumni, from different periods, of the Pat Metheny Group. Some artists are born to be leaders, others are best heard in support of others. While both Wertico and Egan have forged modestly successful careers as leaders, they are inconsistent at best—but in support of Coryell, who has a more focused conception, they clearly shine. Wertico demonstrates a sheer sense of power that he never had the chance to show with Metheny. His solo on “Spaces Revisited” gives Billy Cobham, who played on the original ’97 recording of the same name, a real run for his money. And Egan contributes some of his loosest playing in years, witness the group improvisation, “Three Way Split,” where he manages to emerge from a free-style intro into a fast swing with Wertico that gives Coryell all the room he needs.

In a programme that liberally mixes Monk standards with Coryell originals past and present, Coryell demonstrates a biting and compellingly distinctive style. On “Good Citizen Swallow,” originally from Burton’s Lofty Fake Anagram , he plays with a slight country flavour; on the blues-based “Immer Geredeaus” Coryell combines his roots in Wes Montgomery with a more angular approach. “Spaces Revisited” and “Dragon Gate” were originally recorded as quartet pieces, but both benefit from the more harmonic freedom of the trio setting. “Stable Fantasy,” another new composition, blurs the bar line, and features a lyrical melody from Egan.

Tricycles may not do anything to bring Coryell to the broader audience he deserves, but it should. With a personal style that is clearly as identifiable in its combination of energy and elegance, concept and commitment, as those of his more popular contemporaries, Coryell belongs in the spotlight that has eluded him for nearly forty years.

Anyone remember when Larry Coryell was one of the youngbloods of jazz guitar? Sheesh, I must be getting a bit “advanced” in age, eh? Through the years, there’s never been a doubt in my mind that Larry’s chops were as strong as anyone’s. There were times when I couldn’t follow, though, usually because the tunes weren’t that strong. Well, here the songs, the band, and Larry’s playing are as strong as can be.

There are six Coryell originals, and every one of them is interesting with fine changes and themes running through them. There are nice covers, too. Thelonius Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” has a great feel, with wonderful playing all the way around. The oddest piece, and the one that at first seems out of place, is the Lennon and McCartney chestnut, “She’s Leaving Home.” Larry’s acoustic work shines on the familiar melody, and the soloing is created from that melody. His electric playing is slightly chorused, not unlike some players who came up right after him, like Metheny and Scofield. The solos, though, are pure Coryell. Listen to him navigate the changes of “Immer Geradeaus,” where he solos around them wonderfully, and then lets loose with an impeccable chord solo.

And we should mention the band; on bass is Mark Egan and Paul Wertico mans the drums. The trio setting is perfect, whether it’s bop heaven like “Dragon Gate” or a beautiful, light, ballad like the title cut. The interplay between Egan and Coryell is real fun to listen to. They double each other on occasion, and all three lock in on pretty much every cut to create great music.

This is one of the best jazz guitar albums of the year so far. Great songs, great band, and great soloing.

Track listing:

1 Immer Geradeaus 6:38
2 Dragon Gate 8:31
3 Good Citizen Swallow 6:11
4 Tricycles 6:23
5 Stable Fantasy 4:31
6 Spaces Revisited 8:55
7 Round Midnight 8:38
8 Three Way Srlit 3:43
9 Well You Needn't 5:30
10 She's Leaving Home 3:02


Guitar – Larry Coryell
Bass – Mark Egan
Drums – Paul Wertico



  2. Great album from the amazing Larry Coryell - I will never understand why this guy (and his bands) aren't talked about more.
    Many thanks for posting this one

  3. Thanks for the FLAC I didn't know about this later Coryell recording, good song selection from the Beatles to Monk