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German review of GuitarMasters Festival in Reichenberg Germany on March 17, 2012.

Larry Coryell: With the Wide Hive Players

Wide Hive

During the course of Larry Coryell’s long and storied career, the jazz-fusion guitarist has ventured into nearly every corner of the musical world. But on his most recent collaboration with The Wide Hive Players, Coryell returns to his roots to deliver his most brilliant work in years. Reminiscent of the exploratory rock-fusion from his days with The Free Spirits and the Gary Burton Quintet, the album offers 13 tracks that never let up and seem like lost nuggets from Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew era ‘70s. On the powerful opener “Torchlight,” Coryell laces the song with his signature edgy tone and chunky guitar riffs, and on “Return of Shirtless,” he embarks into extended jam territory. Flurries of distorted notes and caterwauling growls combine with melodious, virtuosic improvisation to create an album that is purely Coryell.

 
After 45 years of making
records, Larry Coryell
may have just cut his best
one ever. Larry Coryell
with the Wide Hive Players
is a collaboration with this
Bay Area-based rhythm
and horn section, and
the results are astonishing.
Throughout the 13
tracks, Coryell raises his
freak-flag high and ably
resurrects the sound of
pre-Mahavishnu fusion
with style and precision.
The correct elements are
here – slightly grungy guitar
tones, funky brass arrangements,
sexy Fender
Rhodes piano licks, and
grooves to die for. Atop
it all, Coryell jams with
joyous abandon, mixing
blues, rock, soul, and
complex jazz phrases as
only an old ’60s master
can. No wonder he’s
regularly touted as “the
godfather of fusion” (if
you’re in doubt, listen to
landmark jazz-rock LPs
like Chico Hamilton’s
The Dealer from 1966,
or the Free Spirits’ Out
of Sight and Sound from
’67).
Now, back to the
present. Cue up “Terco”
for a good example
of Coryell’s acid-fusion
nirvana. A deep, urban
vamp provides the perfect
backdrop for him to get
funky with badass bends,
post-bop phrases, and a
not-quite-clean tone that
evokes a gritty city scene.
“The Last Drop” does what
is unthinkable to today’s
musicians, but which is
to mix horns, Hammond
organ, and acoustic
guitar in a jazz tune. Larry
smokes his solo nevertheless,
playing without any
trace of post-modern
irony; he just delivers a
great acoustic improv over
an interesting harmonic
situation. On “The Return
of Shirtless,” the accent is
on classic R&B á la Blood,
Sweat & Tears or the
Electric Flag, with Coryell
employing a phase shifter
to brilliant effect on a
series of nasty solos. And
in “Moose Knuckles,” you
may think you’ve stumbled
over a vintage jam from
Terry-Kath-era Chicago
or the original Steely Dan
lineup – it’s a veritable
time machine back to
days of taste and tone.
After listening to Larry
Coryell with the Wide Hive
Players a few times, you
may smack yourself on
the forehead as you realize
how hip fusion guitar was
before speedsters like
John McLaughlin and Al Di
Meola cranked it through
a Marshall stack. Cut
by cut, Coryell reminds
us that the genre’s true
roots lie in hard bop,
blues, ’60s soul, and
funk music, not hard
rock and prog (the retro
typeface and artwork
on the cover are no accidents
either, allowing
us to visually reconnect
with old-school fusion in
all its trippy, hash-fueled
glory). The coup de
grâce is that at age 68,
Coryell is making some
of the most exhilarating,
ballsiest music of his
career. Hats off, too, to the
amazing Wide Hive Players
for giving him plenty
of room to prove he’s
still got it. – Pete Prown
Larry Coryell
Larry Coryell with the
Wide Hive Players
Wide Hive Records
Psychedelic
Landmark

NOJG Review!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Before & After" Series