As one of the pioneers of jazz-rock -- perhaps the pioneer in the ears of some -- Larry Coryell deserves a special place in the history books. He brought what amounted to a nearly alien sensibility to jazz electric guitar playing in the 1960s, a hard-edged, cutting tone, phrasing and note-bending that owed as much to blues, rock and even country as it did to earlier, smoother bop influences. Yet as a true eclectic, armed with a brilliant technique, he is comfortable in almost every style, covering almost every base from the most decibel-heavy, distortion-laden electric work to the most delicate, soothing, intricate lines on acoustic guitar. Unfortunately, a lot of his most crucial electric work from the '60s and '70s is missing on CD, tied up by the erratic reissue schemes of Vanguard, RCA and other labels, and by jazz-rock's myopically low level of status in the CD era (although that mindset is slowly changing).
Born in Galveston, Texas on April 2, 1943 Coryell grew up in the Seattle, Washington area where his mother introduced him to the piano at the tender age of 4. He switched to guitar and played rock music while in his teens. He didn't consider himself good enough to pursue a music career and studied journalism at The University of Washington while simultaneously taking private guitar lessons. By 1965 he had relocated to New York City and began taking classical guitar lessons, which would figure, prominently in later stages of his career. Although citing Chet Atkins and Chuck Berry as early influences he also took cues from jazzmen such as John Coltrane and Wes Montgomery. He was also inspired by the popular music of the day by the Beatles, The Byrds and Bob Dylan and worked diligently to meld both rock and jazz stylings into his technique.
This was reflected on his debut recording performance on drummer Chico Hamilton's album "The Dealer" where he sounded like chuck Berry at times with his almost distorted "fat" tone. Also in 1966 he formed a psychedelic band called The Free Spirits on which he also sang vocals, played the sitar and did most of the composing. Although conceptually the band's music conformed to the psychedelic formula with titles like "Bad News Cat"and"I'm Gonna Be Free"it foreshadowed jazz rock with more complex soloing by Coryell and Sax/flute player Jim Pepper.
However, it wasn't until three years later after apprenticing on albums by Vibraphonist Gary Burton and flutist Herbie Mann and gigging with the likes of Jack Bruce and others that Coryell established his multifarious musical voice, releasing two solo albums which mixed jazz, classical and rock ingredients. In late 1969 he recorded "Spaces", the album for which he is most noted. It was a guitar blowout which also included John McLaughlin who was also sitting on the fence between rock and jazz at the time and the cogitative result formed what many aficionados consider to be the embryo from which the fusion jazz movement of the 1970s emerged. It contained insane tempos and fiery guitar exchanges which were often beyond category not to mention some innovating acoustic bass work by Miroslav Vitous and power drumming by Billy Cobham both of whom were to make contributions to Jazz rock throughout the `70s.
His career, however, began in era of guitar rock, where he was able to rise for a time with legends such as Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, and Eric Clapton.
"Larry Coryell, fusion pioneer and seasoned musical traveller between the worlds of rock, jazz, classical and Brazilian rhythms provided the innovative driving lines that reach rierce but lyrical climaxes . . . . Coryell offered up fat clear tones mindful of Wes Montgomery and Barney Kessel, as well as dazzling technique, crafty use of space and complex chord structures. The effect is almost orchestral in weight . . . Coryell generates a great deal of heat in his playing, an intensity matched by his obvious physical involvement with his music. . . . He's really at the top of the league in this crowded musical arena." - Toronto Star
Larry Coryell was born in Galveston, Texas, to parents who both played the piano. Consequently and fortunately, this began his interest as a musician, playing piano at the age of four and switching to ukelele at twelve. The inspiration of Barney Kessel and Wes Montgomery naturally led him to the electric guitar. By fifteen, he was playing rock and roll. In his twenties, Larry moved to New York and entered the jazz-rock fusion movement. He formed his first group called Foreplay with Steve Marcus and Mike Mandel, and then The Eleventh House.
Over the years, Larry has collaborated with Chico Hamilton, Gary Burton, John McLaughlin, Miroslav Vitous, Chick Corea, Billy Cobham, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins and Charles Mingus -- to name a few. Larry's musical expression ranges from avant-garde jazz to the adaptation of Stravinsky compositions for ballet. His concerts and workshops have taken him around the world. He is the consummate performer, teacher and musician. Larry Coryell exemplifies the declaration and odyssey of music at its best.
This three-part DVD series presents an intense and challenging study of jazz guitar ideas.
84 minutes - Level 3 - Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD
Review: So you want to play jazz and fusion? Well this is a good place to start so long as you've been playing the guitar for a couple of years. This isn't a beginners course and you'll need to know how to play barre chords and get around the scales a bit. If you don't know how you soon will with these DVDs. Takes you right from the start - how to warm up, what Larry does every day, scales and then into improvising around scales and harmonies.
As a player and teacher, I can tell you there's hundreds of guitar DVD out there (I've given up watching them now as there are so many bad ones it's a joke trying to review them all for students). This is one of the best. Larry is a great communicator and these DVDs are a very good source of materials if you want to get into fusion and jazz. Players wanting to do the Satriani / Vai thing would do well to pay attention and see the sources of much of that style of playing here in fusion. You don't have to finger tap all the time - you'll see some seriously fast conventional playing on this DVD.
Summary - an excellent DVD for studying the basics of jazz and fusion. Try "Non Nonsense Jazz Guitar" by Jimmy Bruno as well. Larry Coryell's book, "Jazz Guitar" from Guitar Player Publishing would go well with this DVD, although the DVD does come with a booklet and a full size 21 page one to download from the DVD's PDF file. There's a lot of good work to be done here. - C.R. Downing/Amazon Customer Review