Jazz guitar would be a different world without the innovations of Larry Coryell, who returns to The Jazz Factory to perform during the club’s final week.
Coryell’s “A Team” of electric bassist Mark Egan and drummer Paul Wertico has performed together for several years, and together they create magic. Coryell also has a longstanding fondness for Louisville and was a great fan of Jimmy Raney.
Coryell arrived on the jazz scene in the mid-1960s. As a member of the groundbreaking Gary Burton Quartet, he incorporated elements of rock into jazz even before Miles Davis. Over the past four decades, his solo career has featured landmark recordings ranging from fusion classics Spaces and Barefoot Boy, to introspective solo outings (Dragon Gate being a personal favorite) to mainstream, Wes Montgomery-influenced jazz, including his self-released Laid Back and Blues: Live at the Sky Church in Seattle.
Last year was productive, too. His autobiography, “Improvising: My Life in Music,” was published, and a two-DVD set, “Larry Coryell: A Retrospective,” was released. The autobiography’s subtitle is on-point, as much of the book addresses his career more than his personal life.
His insights into the early days of jazz-rock/fusion, which he helped to create, are intriguing. He is brutally honest about his history of substance abuse, and justifiably proud of almost three decades of sobriety. The book is written as if he were chatting and reminiscing with an old friend. Improvising also includes an appendix of selected columns he wrote for Guitar Player from 1977-89.
Retrospective features legendary soul drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, and finds Coryell revisiting some of his early compositions, such as “Souls Dirge,” “After Later” and “Spaces (Infinite).” His playing here is edgier than on some of his more recent CDs, and will be a special treat for fans of Coryell’s pre-Eleventh House work.
In discussing the material for Tuesday’s show, he said it would emphasize music from his superb 2006 CD Tricycles (with Egan and Wertico).
Coryell plans to feature his wife Tracey on an old Bukka White prison lament, “When Can I Change My Clothes. “Tracey does a bang-up job, and I play some down-home, Big Bill Broonzy guitar. We’ve had a lot of success with that.” Further new songs include two gospel classics “Wade in the Water” and a Teo Macero arrangement of “Amazing Grace.”
When he’s asked to address people who are unfamiliar with his work, Coryell said, “A lot of the guitar players they hear these days probably learned at least one or two things from me, because I probably did it first.”
With that, he picked up a guitar and played the ascending bridge from Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression,” saying that he had been doing that before he heard Hendrix. He also remarked on his early use of doubling guitar lines with his voice, a technique later popularized by George Benson and others.
In speaking of his work with Egan and Wertico, Coryell noted that “there is an amazing amount of tightness; it’s aging like a fine wine. The group is extremely dynamic.”
As good as his band is, Coryell revels in the fact that he now has someone who can help translate his music.
“Fundamentally, my whole life I was someone who loved Wes Montgomery, John Coltrane, Dizzy and Bird,” he said. “This is my strongest band, made even stronger with the sound of the human voice. There’s nothing more able to connect with people emotionally than the sound of the human voice.”
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Tuesday, March 25
The Jazz Factory
815 W. Market St.
$25 ($35 for premium, stage-side seating)