Coryell, Larry

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Coryell, Larry

Coryell, Larry , American jazz musician; b. Galveston, Tex., April 2, 1943. A founding father of the fusion movement, an amazing live musician, and one of the most important jazz musicians to emerge in the 1960s, he is an influential though often underrated and sometimes inconsistent guitarist. His playing contains more blues influence than most jazz/rock players and he is probably the most lyrical jazz/rock guitarist spawned from that era (few guitarists have ever written anything as catchy as “Bicentennial Headfest”). Like fellow fusion pioneer John McLaughlin, he has stunning technique and grows restless playing any one style. Shortly after his recording debut with Chico Hamilton in 1966, he co-founded the Free Spirits, a Byrds-influenced rock band with jazz undertones. He joined Gary Burton in 1967, and while his reputation as a versatile rock-influenced jazz player grew with Burton, it was in 1969, when he recorded his first two ground-breaking solo albums—Lady Coryell and the out-of-print Con/ell—that he became recognized as a world-beater. Both albums combine rock, jazz, folk, classical, and country influences, have a sense of experimentation that was typical of that era, and are filled with some wild guitar playing. During the 1970s he was all over the road stylistically. He kicked off the decade by recording the legendary Spaces album with John McLaughlin, which pretty much guaranteed both guitarists a place in jazz history. From there, the 1970s saw him form his own fusion band, the Eleventh House (with Alphonze Mouzon and Mike Mandel); record a classic album, The Restful Mind with Ralph Towner (currently out of print); make several solo albums that ranged from jazz-rock to challenging acoustic adventures; and record two excellent duets with guitarist Philip Catherine, Twin House and Splendid (both are out of print). He also recorded with Joe Beck and John Scofield and in 1979 formed the first version of the Acoustic Guitar Super Trio with McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia. He showed he was also an adept flamenco player as the trio barnstormed Europe and made an excellent live video from Royal Albert Hall. However, by the time the trio hit he United States, Coryell was replaced by Al Di Meola, though accounts vary as to why.

In the early 1980s, Coryell embarked on the ambitious project of scoring and recording famous orchestral works by Stravinsky and Rimsky-Korsakov for solo acoustic guitar (The Rite of Spring and Scherazade); he has scored and recorded works by Ravel and Gershwin. The 1980s also saw him form a partnership with Brian Keane, record an indispensable duet album with Emily Remler, and embark on a number of straight-ahead albums. In the 1990s he has recorded albums in the smooth jazz and world genres, made acoustic dates with heavy folk influences, and most recently has revisited the fusion landscape he mapped out over 27 years ago.

Coryell has been active in education, had a regular guitar column in the magazine Guitar Player for several years, and has two sons who are also musicians. Despite his status as one of the most important jazz guitarists of the past 30 years, the current state of his catalog is a disgrace. Despite making over 50 recordings as leader, only a small percentage are in print and the record companies are not making a concerted effort to reissue his material on CD. This is problematic, as while his catalog has its share of inconsistent dates, there are a number of historic recordings sitting on the shelves.


Coryell (1969); Lady Coryell (1969); Spaces (1970); Introducing the Eleventh House (1974); The Essential Larry Coryell (1975); Planet End (1975); Larry Coryell & the Eleventh House at Montreux (1978); Just Like Being Born (1985); Together (1985); Dragon Gate (1989); Twelve Frets to One Octave (1991); Live from Bahia (1992); Bolero (1993); Sketches of Coryell (1996); Spaces Revisited (1997); Major Jazz Minor Blues (1998); Cause and Effect (1998); Monk, ’Tranef Miles & Me (1999); Coryells (2000).

—Paul MacArthur