Despite the exotic title, this is one of three fairly straight-ahead sets that guitarist Larry Coryell recorded for Muse from 1985-89. Assisted by pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Beaver Harris, Coryell performs five veteran jazz standards (including "Moment's Notice," "'Round Midnight" and "My Funny Valentine"), plus the title cut, which is actually a boppish blues by Williams. Excellent playing all around.
- Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
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Some dates are for blowing. And when you've got a stellar crew like the one that came together for this date in September '87 at that jazz mecca, Rudy Van Gelder's Studio, you know that the music is gonna be about motion.
Because, in some key senses, motion is what Larry Coryell and his entire career's worth of musical exploration has been about. He's eluded the persistent nets of labelling-is it bop? fusion? neo-bop? just plain jazz?-by simply moving too fast and too frequently to be caught up in them. When other jazz guitarists were still preoccupied with pawing over and over the enormous but not limitless legacies of Charlie Christian, Texas-born Coryell was infusing country music into Gary Burton's famed quartet, or listening to the revolutions exploding in the sounds of Jimi Hendrix and harnessing what he needed for his own creative outreaches with Eleventh House. As fusion- always a loaded term-degenerated all too quickly into fuzak and funkzak, the kind of jazz-flavored strutting practiced more and more by studio hands with a free day and a few ideas, or ego freaks who thought it was another way to overwhelm the audience instead of speaking to it, it lost whatever ongoing musical significance it might have had. Recognizing those sad facts, coming to grips with his own musical needs, Coryell had already moved on.
So it happened that his constant searching eventually brought him back to where he'd begun: unhyphenated jazz, but filtered through that distinctive Coryell touch. If his first two recordings for Muse, the aptly named Comin'Home-MCD5303 and the nuanced but fiery follow-up, Eguipoise-MCD5319, in some senses mapped out the routes he was taking to get there, this one announces that he's arrived-again. All it takes to confirm that, is a listen to what's burning behind the cover.
Tracks 1 thru 3 presents a kind of encapsulated modernist's tradition. Trane's "Moment's Notice" kicks things off with a focused intensity that Coryell unfurls into a brilliant, expansive tapestry of a solo over the tight-woven work of his world-class rhythm section. Who is better equipped than Coryell, a man who has spent so much time and energy delving into the musical structures that underlie the revolutionary sounds of the last twenty years, to plumb some of the depths of the melodic and harmonic reorganizations Coltrane's music brought in its wake? Next up, as we move across a genealogical time line, is Monk's much-covered '"Round Midnight," which appropriately receives a more muted, though no less energetic, reading. Here the quartet concentrates on extended forms of crosstalk, dancing their lines around one another's to create a bittersweet incandescense; a brief bossa-nova release is followed by a long solo coda shimmering with brilliant runs and punctuated with deft harmonics. "Toku-Do" is the boppish blues by bassist Williams that gives the recording its name and Coryell a chance to deploy all his formidable chops, to stretch and deliberately build a blues-based solo to a dizzying, dazzling climax. If I tell you that Cowell and Williams more than get their solo licks in as well, and that the head's statement and restatement offers some high-stepping doubling on the stringed instruments to open and close out with a flourish, what more do you need to know?
Tracks 5 thru 7 is a look backward that is also a look forward. "Just Friends" is an old chestnut that here gets its shell stripped clean off, its meat ripped out and smashed to paste and reformulated over a heated pace as Coryell tackles the long and oblique harmonic lines he can venture down with few followers and fewer equals; when the ever-supple rhythm section slides into an Afro-Cuban rideout, he responds with the full weight of his instrument's history, torturing a couple of bluesy bends, gliding briskly through some Wes-type octaves, biting off modal flurries. Rodgers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine"-another tip of the hat to Trane-becomes a study in lilting swing that steps progressively farther out, especially when Williams and Cowell begin to tangle after Coryell's lengthy but never meandering solo. The round-robin interplay on the coda winds things down into a somewhat ironic finish.
But fittingly, it's the closer that displays Coryell's masterful abilities in the harsh glare of a solo performance. Given the current revival of fascination for the work of Duke Ellington on the part of musicians of every stripe, it's appropriate that "Sophisticated Lady" is the guitarist's chosen vehicle for the dextrous by convoluted rehar-monizings that he works through with such an eloquent vengeance. It's enough to say that Duke, himself such a champion of the unexpected voicing, would more than approve of this witty and utterly charming revamping that extends his spirit.
And so Larry Coryell has one more time trained his fluent, prodigious, almost frightening, ax abilities in a target worthy of them. In his own determined searching, Larry Coryell has redrawn the lines of some aspects of jazz because of the way he's moved through its history-and that's about as high as praise can get.