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16 June 2011

Larry Coryell - 'Barefoot Boy' (Flying Dutchman)

I first heard of Coryell because he plays guitar on some late, late Mingus records. Jazz guitar is always a weird one for me; I'm never sure how to put that instrument into a jazz context. Barefoot Boy puts Coryell in a group with Steve Marcus on sax and some more fusion-oriented rhythmic players. It opened with the Gabor Szabo/Santana tune 'Gypsy Queen', which sets a pace the rest of the record never catchs up to. Coryell starts the song with a rapid, muted repetitious figure and lets Marcus blast away on tenor; it's a crazy tone, and the drummer (Roy Haynes) propels things along with a light touch as well. It's really just an intro to the guitar lead, which finally comes in after a few minutes and starts screaming like the severed head of a banshee, occasionally flirting with muddy textures and flange/phase stuff. The liner notes compare him to Hendrix and I guess that's apt, though I hear Sharrock in there. The photos really make Coryell look like a nerd, like someone who shoulda been programming a VAX computer in 1971 instead of busting out ripping, swampy axe licks. I like this record a lot though, even though it mellows a bit. 'The Great Escape' finishes the first side and it's a bit more open and loose as the title might suggest. There's more breathing and still some stunning runs, but it takes on a more romantic tinge at points. Side two is one lengthy 20 minute jam called 'Call to the Higher Consciousness', which despite its name is not a long drone meditation. It's really two parts, separated by a slow, peripatetic Roy Haynes drum solo, with some straight-up rock pyrotechnics at points and the addition of Michael Mandel on piano. At times it feels like the drums and piano are in one calm mentality while Coryell and Marcus are blasting away with speedy, screeching licks. Because they have the same harmonic centre, it works well and starts to actually take on a minimalist monotony after about 15 minutes. It's too all-over-the-place to be the psychedelic call to higher consciousness I'd like, but it's good anyway.

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