LARRY CORYELL – Barefoot Man: Sanpaku

Purple Pyramid 2016

LARRY CORYELL - Barefoot Man: Sanpaku

LARRY CORYELL –
Barefoot Man: Sanpaku

Forever young: late great fusioneer’s final offering harks back to the days of yore to wrap them in songs of experience.

This is an album that would see Larry Coryell ride out into 2017 and beyond, and the guitarist had a lot planned, but he died on February 19th, mere hours after playing a show that was, as usual, full of youthful fire. Same can be said about “Barefoot Man” which, of course, bears a deliberate echo of 1971’s “Barefoot Boy” where spontaneity got reined in for a snapshot of elusion. “Sanpaku” – both the record and its opening track whose title may mean “Three-Night Stay” and possibly reflect its live origin – doesn’t stand still either, although the funky start and the unhurried jive find Coryell and his ensemble step lightly before flurries of licks become intense.

There’s an intricate but loose interplay between Larry’s six-string and Lynne Arriale’s ivories that amounts to a bell-like call, and when Dan Jordan’s reeds join in, one is sucked into a time-warping vortex only to leave it when final notes of the brisk “Blue Your Mind” fade away. The instruments drip in unison for “Back To Russia” to acoustically evoke a Rachmaninoff-like elegy until Lee Pierson’s drums spur John Lee’s bass, and the whole band shift to an electric side of things. Yet if “If Miles Were Here” is where jazzy exercises reach full swing, riding the rhythm section past bossa nova and well-tempered boogie towards an anxious kind of blue, “Penultimate” – not a next-to-last piece on display – mellows out to mold a mellifluous melancholy from a piano that’s punctured in all the right places to get covered with melodic patterns both at the bottom end and at the top.

With cheerful “Improv On 97” adding gracious wildness to the performance that initially promised to run amok but takes its time to admire the beauty of a moment and nail immediacy, and “Manteca” blooming with blues and bouncing off rockabilly, a smile is never far away from these grooves – a smile that was at the core of every Larry Coryell’s piece. He may be gone, yet this smile stays on.

****1/3

February 23, 2017

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