Larry Coryell Biography

2 April 1943, Galveston, Texas, USA. Coryell grew up in the state of Washington. He first worked as a guitarist in 1958 when he formed a rock ‘n’ roll band with keyboard player Michael Mandel. In 1965 he relocated to New York and joined Chico Hamilton’s band, overlapping with the legendary guitarist Gabor Szabo, whom he eventually replaced. In 1966 he formed Free Spirits with American Indian tenor player Jim Pepper. He toured with Gary Burton (1967-68) and played on Herbie Mann’s 1968 session, Memphis Underground. Coryell was impressed with the exploits of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton with Cream, and his performance on Michael Mantler’s Jazz Composers Orchestra project in 1968 was scarifying electric guitar at its best. Coryell’s early solo albums featured strong support from Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison (Lady Coryell), and John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham (Spaces). Fairyland, recorded live at Montreux in 1971 with soul veterans Chuck Rainey (bass) and Bernard Purdie (drums), a power trio format, was packed with sublime solos. Barefoot Boy, recorded the same year at Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios, was notable for its simultaneous use of non-pareil jazz drummer Roy Haynes and electric feedback and distortion.

Coryell formed Eleventh House with Mandel, honing his experimental music into a dependable showcase for his virtuosity, but seeming to have sensed that a spark had gone he broke up the band in the mid-70s and gave up playing electric guitar for a while. He began performing with other guitarists - Philip Catherine, McLaughlin, Paco De Lucia and John Scofield. He played on Charles Mingus’ Three Or Four Shades Of Blue in 1977 and recorded arrangements of Stravinsky for Nippon Phonogram. In the mid-80s Coryell started playing electric again, with Bunny Brunel (bass) and Alphonse Mouzon (drums). In 1990 he recorded with Don Lanphere, using his considerable name to spotlight an old friend’s rekindled career, and throughout the rest of the decade produced easy, unassuming music. In 2000, he released an acoustic album with his two sons Julain and Murali.

Despite his extraordinary technique and his early promise, Coryell has never really created his own music, instead playing with undeniable finesse in a variety of contexts. He is however a remarkable musician and the recent past has shown how much of a traditional jazz guitarist he is.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.