Larry Coryell was born 2 April, 1943 in Galveston, Texas. As a child he studied and played piano, switching to guitar (acoustic, and then electric) in his teens. After studying journalism at the University of Washington, he moved to New York City in 1965, where he played behind guitarist Gabor Szabo in drummer Chico Hamilton's jazz quintet. However, by 1966, he had replaced Szabo and later that same year went on to record his vinyl debut with Hamilton's band. Also in 1966 he co-founded an early jazz-rock band, the Free Spirits, with whom he recorded one album, 1966's rare, Free Spirit: Out Of Sight And Sound. Soon after his stint with the Free Spirits he joined vibra-harpist Gary Burton's band, recording with him three seminal albums, all of which are now long out of print. In 1969 he recorded Memphis Underground with flautist Herbie Mann whose band, at that time, included Roy Ayers and the influential free-jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock. Also in 1969, before recording his first solo LP, he toured Europe and the U.S. with ex-Cream bassist Jack Bruce, ex-Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell, as well as keyboardist and future Coryell side-man Mike Mandel.
Throughout the seventies he released album after album, often playing alongside the very best jazz had to offer. Some of the heavy-weights include: guitarists John McLaughlin, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Paco De Lucia, Pat Metheny, Al Di Meola, John Abercrombie, Larry Carlton, John Scofield, Kazumi Watanabe, Ralph Towner, and Steve Kahn; drummers Billy Cobham, Elvin Jones, Steve Gadd, Lenny White, Mitch Mitchell and Tony Williams; alto sax player David Sanborn, tenor sax players Pharoah Sanders and Michael Brecker; soprano sax players Sonny Rollins and Steve Lacy, cornet player Don Cherry, trumpet players Maynard Ferguson and Randy Brecker; violinist Stephane Grappelli, keyboardists Chick Corea, Larry Young, David Sancious and Lyle Mays; and bassists Charles Mingus, Miroslav Vitous, Ron Carter, Eddie Gomez, Jack Bruce, Jimmy Garrison, Charlie Haden, Steve Swallow and Tony Levin.
In 1979 and 1980 he toured Europe with Paco De Lucia and John McLaughlin as part of a guitar super-trio, eventually releasing a video recorded at the Royal Albert Hall, London, which commemorated this "meeting of the spirits". This trio was short lived however, and he was replaced by Al Di Meola in early 1980.
Throughout the 80's, although playing almost exclusively acoustic guitar, Larry Coryell continued to break new ground. And if his ambitious avant-garde interpretations of Stravinsky and Ravel are any indication, it seems clear that there is much more to this guitar-slinging virtuoso from Texas than jazz/rock fusion.
Complicated? Perhaps, but his newest album, Sketches of Coryell, should simplify things. To quote Coryell himself, "The idea of this album was to 'Shut Up 'N' Play Yer Guitar' in the immortal words of the dearly missed Frank Zappa. But I chose not to indulge in a lot of fast stuff. Instead we just concentrated on melody and whatever the composition called for."
But whatever genre, whatever approach, with sixty recordings under his belt, Coryell can be considered a true "Guitar Legend". Case in point: he recently took part in a concert in Spain, spotlighting 32 of the world's finest guitarists, including B.B. King, Keith Richards, Robbie Robertson, Bob Dylan, and Les Paul. And guess what? He felt right at home.
Mr. Coryell now lives in Duchess County, New York, but continues to teach guitar part-time, and tours regularly.