Personalities | Larry Coryell | Father of Fusion | Guitar Heroes
Larry Coryell (b. 1943), a father of jazz-rock fusion, has recorded more than 70 albums over the past 35 years. Born in Galveston, Texas, Coryell tried his hand at a number of instruments before settling on the guitar. Chet Atkins, Chuck Berry and Wes Montgomery were major influences.
As a child Coryell studied piano, switching to guitar in his teens. After studying at the University of Washington, he moved to New York City in 1965, where he played behind guitarist Gabor Szabo in drummer Chico Hamilton’s jazz quintet. By 1966, he had replaced Szabo, and later that year made his vinyl debut with Hamilton’s band.
Also in 1966 he co-founded an early jazz-rock band, the Free Spirits, with whom he recorded one album, Free Spirit: Out Of Sight And Sound (1966). Soon after his stint with the Free Spirits he joined vibraphonist Gary Burton’s band, recording three albums. In 1969 he recorded Memphis Underground with flautist Herbie Mann. Coryell gained national fame with the Gary Burton Quartet in 1967 and became a highly sought session guitarist in rock, jazz and pop. He toured with Jack Bruce, and recorded with artists as diverse as the Fifth Dimension, Charles Mingus and Chick Corea.
In 1974 Coryell formed the Eleventh House, the most popular and successful fusion band of its time, which included Randy Brecker, Mike Mandel, Danny Trifan and Alphonse Mouzon. After the Eleventh House disbanded, Coryell made a series of solo albums, followed by a direct-to-disc recording with the Brecker Brothers. In 1979 Coryell formed the Guitar Trio with jazz-fusion guitarist John McLaughlin and flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía. In early 1980 Coryell was replaced by Al Di Meola.
In the Nineties Coryell made an admittedly calculated attempt at smooth jazz for the adult contemporary market, a move he has said he ultimately found too limiting. He returned to form with Spaces Revisited (1997), reuniting with Billy Cobham, his partner for Spaces (1974). Coryell’s more recent works include Monk, ’Trane, Miles And Me (1999), Cedars Of Avalon (2002) and Tricycles (2004).
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