Birdfingers: The Soaring Heights of Coryell

The Eleventh House Introducing The Eleventh House With Larry Coryell. Vanguard VSD 79342. 1974
The Eleventh House
Level One. Arista AL 4052. 1975
Coryell Planet End. Vanguard VSD 23022. 1975

The mid-1970s found lightning fretman Larry Coryell soaring at the jazz/rock nexus. With an eclectic cast of veterans – including brass/rock trumpeter Randy Brecker (Blood Sweat & Tears; Dreams) and drumming extraordinaire Alphonse Mouzon (Weather Report) – Coryell aimed for the utmost in idiomatic latitude on Introducing The Eleventh House.

At the ignition of Mouzon, “Birdfingers” sends guitar/trumpet winds aflurry, with the hollow-bodied scales of Coryell running miles along the mountainous chordal arch of the tune. Velocities snowball on “Yin”, a six-minute race between the nimble blaze of Coryell and the cyber-emissions of keyboardist Mike Mandel’s ARP Odyssey. Syncopation serves up contrast in “Adam Smasher”, where funky basslines form the ground on which Brecker shines; at least until Coryell muscles his way to the fore. Brecker redoubles with his stately riff to “Right On Y’All”, a brass/rock parade which Mandel engulfs with intergalactic aplomb.

The crew drops a heavier load onto Level One, with the symphonic strides of the opening theme landing at a new musical crossroads. “Nyctaphobia” is their most frenzied racer yet, with Coryell, Mandel and Mouzon slinging neck-in-neck to the finish line. Lightning yields to thunder on “That’s the Joint”, where Coryell sets flame to the thickening slabs of newly-recruited bassman John Lee. (Could this be the dawn of metallic jazz?) Coryell grinds to a 4/4 foothold for the flanged-out funk of “Some Greasy Stuff”, replete with runs through Mandel’s sound library. Ambitions climax with “Suite: Entrance/Repose/Exit”, a lavish display of guitar/piano filigree spun through a modulated windmill; alternately becalmed and billowing.

Concurrently, Coryell kept his solo side alight with Planet End, a stripped engagement with numerous jazz/rock players. From the thunder of “Cover Girl” to the flash of “Rocks”, much of this album suggests a rockier twist to the Eleventh House sound. By contrast, the double-bass extensions of both “Tyrone” and the title-track serve as upright jazz, with the walking notes of Miroslav Vitouš setting ground for some light, legato fretwork from our star.

Decked in surreal cover art, these defining works of Coryell play like singular sonic excursions – a most spellbinding ride for the aurally adventurous.


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