Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 2 April 1943, Galveston TX; d 19 February 2017, NYC) Guitarist, composer; mostly self-taught; described in '60s as 'perhaps the most original guitarist around' (down beat) and later as the father of fusion, the melding of jazz with other musics, especially rock. He grew up in Seattle, Washington, where he played rock and studied journalism, unsure whether he was good enough to pursue a career in music; he went to NYC '65 and started taking classical guitar lessons, which had a profound effect. He worked with Chico Hamilton. He formed a band called The Free Spirits, in which he sang and played sitar, bringing his eclectic influences and improving technique to it; this was probably heard as psychedelic at the time but has been described as fusion before fusion had a name.

He toured with Gary Burton '67-8 (LPs Duster, In Concert), Herbie Mann (Memphis Underground). His own LPs on Vanguard with varying personnel including Lady Coryell with Jimmy Garrison and Basics with Ron Carter, both '68; Spaces '70 with John McLaughlin, Miroslav Vitous, Billy Cobham; At The Village Gate '71 (with one vocal by Julie Coryell); The Real Great Escape, Offering, Introducing The Eleventh House '72; Larry Coryell And The Eleventh House at Montreux and The Restful Mind '74; Planet End '75. Barefoot Boy '71 on Flying Dutchman/RCA was a septet; Fairyland on Mega a trio set from Montreux '71; Level One '74 a sextet on Arista. Difference '75 is a collection on EGG from solo to septet; Aspects (eleven pieces with the Brecker brothers), The Lion And The Ram (quintet), Two For The Road (guitar duets with Steve Kahn) all '76 were on Arista. Twinhouse '76 is duet with guitarist Philip Catherine, was issued on both Elektra and Atlantic; Live '77 with Catherine and pianist Joachim Kühn on Elektra; Back Together Again '77 on Atlantic had Catherine, drummer Alphonse Mouzon (b 21 November 1948; d 25 December 2016), and background vocals; Splendid was made '78 with Catherine in Hamburg on Elektra has Kühn on one track. There was a recorded guitar lesson accompanied with 24-page booklet, Improvisation From Rock To Jazz '77.

Standing Ovation '78 on Mood, European Impressions '78 on Arista and Bolero '81 (on Evidence CD) were among many solo sets; Return '79 on Vanguard was a quintet with three Brubeck brothers and Ray Mantilla on percussion; Tributaries '79 on Arista had three guitars (with Joe Beck and John Scofield); The Larry Coryell/Michal Urbaniak Duo '82 on the Dutch Keystone label has Urbaniak on electric violin, two vocals by Urszula Dudziak; Solos, Duos And Trios '82 on Ketone had a solo suite by Coryell, other tracks by other artists; 'Round Midnight '83 was made with a Japanese trio; Just Like Being Born '85 on Flying Fish had duets on electric and acoustic guitars with Brian Keane; Together '85 on Concord Jazz a duet with Emily Remler. Small groups Comin' Home '84 with pianist Albert Dailey, Equipoise '85 and Toku Do '87 with Stanley Cowell were all on Muse, as was Shining Hour with Kenny Barron. Coryell played on Charles Mingus LPs Three Or Four Shades Of Blues '77 (as do Scofield and Catherine), Me Myself An Eye '78. Scheherezade, The Firebird and Petrouchka (Philips '84) like Bolero were transcriptions of 'classical' music for guitar. Later albums included The Dragon Gate, American Odyssey and Twelve Frets To One Octave on Shanachie; A Quiet Day In Spring with Urbaniak on Steeplechase; Quartet and Air Dancing on Jazzpoint. Among many studies of Coryell's work was Jazz Styles: History and Analysis '85 by M.C. Gridley, with manual and discography.

He continued active with his diverse musical interests; no one was more eclectic, his technique such that he could do anything, and that translated into influence on a generation, though some rock guitarists were more famous. His last albums were Barefoot Man: Sanpaku 2016 on Cleopatra, and Seven Secrets 2017 on Savoy Jazz, the latter featuring the latest edition of his fusion band Eleventh House. He died in his sleep in a hotel room after playing at the Iridium.