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Wednesday, June 3, 2020
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Larry Coryell, above, and his organ trio, 8 p.m., April 6, Zoellner Arts Center, Lehigh University, Bethlehem CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Larry Coryell, above, and his organ trio, 8 p.m., April 6, Zoellner Arts Center, Lehigh University, Bethlehem

Jazz-fusion pioneer Coryell at Zoellner

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 by JERRY DUCKETT Special to The Press in Focus

Look up the music term jazz-fusion and the name of guitarist Larry Coryell inevitably pops up.

Whether playing electric, acoustic or classical guitar, Coryell is considered by many the pioneer of jazz-fusion.

The Larry Coryell Organ Trio, which includes organist Mike Mandel and drummer Alphonse Mouzon, performs 8 p.m., April 6, Baker Hall, Zoellner Arts Center, Lehigh University, 420 E. Packer Avenue, Bethlehem.

The night before the Zoellner performance, Coryell celebrates his 70th birthday in Ashburnham, Mass., with a reunion of his seminal jazz-fusion band, The Eleventh House, with original members trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Danny Trifan, Mandel and Mouzon.

Coryell, a Galveston, Tex., native, moved with his family to Richland, Wash., in 1960. After graduating from high school, he moved to Seattle to study journalism at the University of Washington.

"I diddled around on the piano when I was about four," says Coryell in a phone interview while in Oakland, Calif., for a gig. "I didn't get serious about music until I began to take lessons when I was nine or 10. I switched to guitar when I was 15 and, believe it or not, played percussion in the bands in junior and senior high school.

"Of course, like most kids, I played guitar rock in a garage band in high school, which was a lot of fun. My first pro gig was in a very small town in Washington called White Swan located on the Yakama Indian Reservation. It was for a high school prom and we got paid $5 each. That is just about what everyone in New York is getting paid these days."

In 1965, Coryell moved to New York City and began classical guitar lessons. He soon became part of Chico Hamilton's quintet, then later in 1967 and 1968, recorded with Gary Burton. Coryell formed The Eleventh House in 1973 and, after the band broke up, he played mainly acoustic guitar.

One of the many highlights of his career was his formation in 1979 of The Guitar Trio with jazz-fusion guitarist John McLaughlin and flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia. Coryell returned to electric guitar in the 1980s.

Coryell has been associated with and influenced by some of the top names in jazz. Here are his observations:

"Chico Hamilton … Like my 'Dad.' He got me started in the business. In 1966, I was 23 and hopping around New York unemployed, and he hired me for his band.

"Gary Burton ... A great mentor and a great player. Playing with him gave me my first major opportunity to get a lot of publicity. Even Time magazine wrote articles about me two times, and I ended up on the cover of Downbeat magazine.

"Herbie Mann ... A great leader and great friend. I went from Gary's group to Herbie's group in 1967 or '68. I can't remember for sure, but bassist Jack Bruce [formerly of the rock band Cream] was in there, too.

"John McLaughlin ... He moved to New York to play with Tony Williams. I was supposed to play with Williams when he was forming his group, but I had to do some soul-searching and I decided I wanted to go out as a leader. My wife and I were moving at the time, and we gave John our apartment. I heard him in Harlem the first night the Tony Williams band played. It was a real revelation."

Coryell most recent CD is "The Lift" with the Wide Hive Players.