LARRY CORYELL-BAREFOOT BOY.

LARRY CORYELL-BAREFOOT BOY.

Larry Coryell, it seemed, was destined to become a musician. Born in Galveston, Texas, Larry was playing in local bands throughout his time at Richland High School. He was a member of The Flames, The Rumblers, The Royals, The Jailers and even, the Yakima based Checkers. For a group looking for a guitarist, Larry Coryell was the go-to-guy. So. it’s no surprise after graduating from high school, Larry headed the University of Washington, where there was a thriving music scene. At the University of Washington, Larry soon hooked up with various local bands. Among them, were the Seattle-based, Dynamics. This was all part of Larry’s apprenticeship. On leaving university, Larry’s career began in earnest.

Having graduated from the University of Washington, Larry Coryell headed to New York in 1965. He was about to replace Gabor Szabo in Chico Hamilton’s quintet. Larry played on Chico Hamilton’s classic 1966 album The Dealer. This was the start of a three year period where Larry worked with the biggest names in jazz. Among them, are Chico O’Farill, Bob Moses, Steve Marcus, and Jim Pepper. Larry was also a member of the free jazz collective the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra and The Free Spirits, a progressive group who fused jazz, rock, psychedelia and pop. Then in 1968, Larry Coryell launched his solo career.

For his debut album Larry Coryell, Larry started as me meant to go on. This meant an ambitious, innovative, genre-sprawling eponymous album. Released to critical acclaim, Larry Coryell, released on Vanguard Records, showcased Larry’s versatility, with fusion and jazz sitting comfortably side-by-side. The followup to Larry Coryell, was 1969s Coryell. Then in 1970, Larry lead the all-star band that featured on Spaces, a pioneering album of jazz fusion. His third solo album was 1971s Barefoot Boy, which was recently rereleased on BGP Records. Barefoot Boy sees Larry continue to push musical boundaries. You’ll realize that, when I tell you about Barefoot Boy. Before that, I’ll tell you about Larry’s career between leaving university and releasing Barefoot Boy.

Replacing Gabor Szabo in Chico Hamilton’s quintet was the break Larry Coryell was looking for. He left Washington and headed to New York. A year later, in 1966, Larry played on Chico Hamilton’s classic debut album The Dealer, which was released on Impulse. This lead to Larry becoming one of the most sought after jazz guitarists.

Later in 1966, Larry played Chico O’Farill’s 1966 album Nine Flags. A fusion of Afro-Cuban music, Nine Flags was another ambitious and innovative album. It seemed artists recording ambitious albums would call upon Larry Coryell.

During 1967, Larry played on two albums vibes player Gary Burton released. The first was Duster, a pioneer jazz fusion album. Duster is perceived as the first jazz fusion album. Later in 1967, Larry played an important part on Gary Burton’s Lofty Fake Anagram. Larry and Gary fed off each other, driving each other to greater heights. The other album Larry played on, was The Free Spirits’ Out Of Sight and Sound. They were a progressive group who fused jazz, rock, psychedelia and pop. 1967 for Larry was a whirlwind of progressive music. Music was changing and Larry was at the heart of these changes.

As 1968 dawned, Larry was busier than ever. He played on five studio albums. This included Gary Burton’s A Genuine Tong Funeral, where Gary continued to create music that was ahead of its time. He played on two albums by Steve Marcus, who many people perceive as the founding father of fusion. The Count, as Steve is known released Count’s Rock Band and The Lord’s Prayer during 1968. Both demonstrate the direction jazz was heading. Another album Larry played on, was Bob Moses’ Love Animal. It features a fusion supergroup. The other album Larry played on was the free jazz collective The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra eponymous album. Featuring some of the most groundbreaking musicians, this was free jazz at its most ambitious. During Larry also played on Gary Burton’s Quartet In Concert. All this was part of Larry’s apprenticeship. The following year, Larry came of age musically.

Over the past four years, Larry had played with some of the biggest names in jazz. He’d learnt from them. Now he realized, was the time to release his debut album. For his debut album Larry Coryell, Larry started as me meant to go on. This meant an ambitious, inventive, genre-melting album. Released to critical acclaim, Larry Coryell, released on Vanguard Records, showcased Larry’s versatility, with fusion and jazz sitting comfortably side-by-side.

The followup to Larry Coryell, was 1969s Coryell. It wasn’t as well received as his debut album. An underrated album, that’s variously melodic, funky and adventurous, Larry even showcases his vocal. Since then, the album has remained one of jazz’s forgotten albums.

In 1970, Larry lead the all-star band that featured on Spaces, a pioneering album of jazz fusion. This featured a fusion supergroup.John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Billy Cobham and Miroslav Vitous all played on Spaces. What was Larry’s first album of the seventies, showed the way jazz was heading.

Two years after releasing Coryell, Larry signed to Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Records. It would release his third solo album was 1971s Barefoot Boy. Barefoot Boy sees Larry continue to push musical boundaries. Featuring just three tracks, Gabor Szabo’s Gypsy Queen plus Larry’s The Great Escape and Call To The Higher Consciousness. These three tracks were recorded live at Electric Ladyland Studios, New York.

Accompanying Larry on Barefoot Boy were tenor saxophonist Steve Marcus, drummer Roy Haynes, percussionist Harry Wilkinson and Lawrence Killian on congas. Michael Bronson played bass on The Great Escape, while Pianist Michael Mandel and soprano saxophonist Steve Marcus played on Call To The Higher Consciousness. These three tracks became Barefoot Boy.

On the release of Barefoot Boy, it was critically acclaimed. Rock and jazz are fused by the all-star band over a trio of tracks. Larry, you’ll realize, was back to his very best. Barefoot Boy saw him pick up where his eponymous debut album left off. 

Opening Barefoot Boy is Gypsy Queen, which Santana recorded on their Abraxas‘ album. Here this familiar track is reinvented. Larry’s pulsating, funky guitar joins hissing hi-hats, congas and pounding drums. They settle into a groove, while Steve Marcus’ tenor saxophone is like an impassioned plea. Soul-baring, it probes and questions why did he fall for the Gypsy Queen. Her charms are irresistible though. Funk, fusion, free jazz and rock are combined. Crucial to the track’s success is Steve Marcus. He unleashes a virtuoso performance. Not to be outdone, Larry unleashes a wall of Henrix-esque feedback. His guitar wah-wahs its way across the arrangement funk and rock uniting in a psychedelic Purple Haze. As the rhythm section provide the heartbeat, Larry dawns the role of guitar hero. Playing the part to perfection his virtuoso performance is inventive, ambitious, dramatic and lysergic. What a mesmeric introduction to the Barefoot Boy.

The Great Escape is the first of two tracks Larry penned. Punchy bursts of Steve Marcus’ tenor saxophone join congas, while the rhythm section match them every step of the way. Having stepped forward from the shadows, Larry proceeds to dawn the role of guitar gunslinger. Nonchalantly he unleashes a series chiming, crystalline guitar licks. It’s nothing showy, not that is, until he unleashes a series of machine gun licks. Behind him, the rest of the band keep it simple. Settling into a groove, percussion and a bubbling bass become one, creating a shuffling beat. As Larry’s guitar is panned left, Steve’s saxophone is panned right. Rather than enter a duel, Larry let’s Steve showcase his impassioned playing. He’s happy to feed off Steve, before throwing in some tricks and fancy licks. Wah-wahing its way across the arrangement Larry and his band showcase their inconsiderable skills on this genre-melting track.

Closing Barefoot Boy is Call To The Higher Consciousness. It’s a twenty-minute jam. Steve Marcus switches to soprano saxophone and blows like he’s never blown before. What follows is a spellbinding example of jazz fusion. It shows what’s possible when rock and jazz unite. Improvisation and rock resulted in indefinite possibilities. From Larry’s chiming guitar and dramatic bursts of Steve’s wailing, scorching saxophone, the band tease and tantalize. You know they’re about to kick loose and relish the thought. Rolls of drums and crystalline jazz guitar set the scene. Dropping the tempo, the band play thoughtfully and creating a understated backdrop. As the arrangement meanders along, always threatening to explode, Steve unleashes a mesmeric solo, playing as if his life depends upon it. Meanwhile, Larry plays tenderly, knowing his time will come. It does and he doesn’t disappoint. A spellbinding series of solos are unleashed. Then the rest of the band get in on the action, enjoying their moment in the sun during this Modal Magnus Opus, which is a bewitching and fitting finale to Barefoot Boy.

Listening back to Barefoot Boy, it’s almost impossible to believe that the album was recorded live in Electric Ladyland Studios, New York in 1971. After all, the music is almost flawless. From the moment Larry counts in his band, they hardly miss a beat. They feed off each other, driving each other to greater heights. Here is a band at the peak of their powers, striving to innovate and create music that’s groundbreaking, ambitious and adventurous. It’s music that marks a marriage between rock and jazz. Add to that elements of funk and psychedelia. The result is an album that was part of a new musical dawn. That era began back in the sixties. By 1971, this new genre, fusion, was beginning to evolve as a genre. 

From 1971, fusion became flavor of the month as far as jazz was concerned. Jazz and rock musicians found common ground. Together, they pushed musical boundaries. Later, synths were added to this equation and new opportunities opened up for those at the vanguard of fusion. One man who’d been around since the dawn of fusion, was Larry Coryell. Whether it was as a sideman or solo artist, Larry Coryell produced inventive, imaginative music, music that broke down musical boundaries. 

Suddenly, a whole new generation were hearing jazz for the first time. For many of them, this was the first step in a musical voyage of discovery. Newcomers to jazz, embarked upon a musical adventure. They were hearing albums like Larry Coryell’s Barefoot Boy which was recently rereleased by BGP Records. Fusion was their introduction to jazz. What better way to discover a musical genre that’s best described as a broad church? An inventive, ambitious, dramatic and lysergic musical adventure Larry Coryell’s third album, Barefoot Boy proved to be one of the best albums of a true jazz pioneers career. It’s also the perfect introduction to fusion and one of its finest practitioners, the Barefoot Boy, Larry Coryell.

LARRY CORYELL-BAREFOOT BOY.

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