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Larry Coryell - Spaces CD (album) cover


Larry Coryell


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.86 | 43 ratings

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5 stars Enter another Dimesnsion

In 1969 it seemed that New York City was the center of the universe as far as the world of jazz was concerned. At this focal point was a manifestation of daring musicians who were on the threshhold of redefining jazz with Miles Davis as their chief architect. His " Bitches Brew " sessions spawned many revolutionary ideas towards jazz, most notably new philosophies towards improvised music and the use of volume. Around the same time a young sparkplug named Larry Coryell who had played guitar on innovative recordings by Herbie Mann, Gary Burton and others was creating his own adventurous music releasing three hybrid albums which seeked to fuse jazz and rock attitudes into one creature. His fourth endeavour, "Spaces" was about to transcend jazz as it was known at the time and plant a seed for what was to come.

Coryell had no problems attracting interest for this new project and recruited four exceptional musicians who all, at on time or another, had played with maestro Miles. Guitarist John McLaughlin was a perfect sparring partner. McLaughlin, who had just arrived from Europe, was playing with the newly formed jazz-rock outfit Tony Williams`Lifetime and had also played on the " Bitches Brew " sessions and, like Coryell, he had jammed with Hendrix and shared Coryell`s interest in certain aspects of rock music. Drummer Billy Cobham had already made his mark and in addition to playing briefly with Miles he had apprenticed in US Army bands and played on recordings by Horace Silver and George Benson. Bassist Miroslav Vitious had played with Miles while keyboardist Chick Corea had just joined Miles`band.

While "Spaces" has been frequently referred to as the purveyer of `70 fusion ( and this may be true to a point ) it is more of a jazz record than anything. It didn`t sound like any jazz record up to that point but has probably been referred to as the forerunner of fusion because the individual musicians went on to form or become part of the heavyweight fusion groups of the `70s, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Return To Forever and Coryell`s own fusion group The Eleventh House. Nonetheless, unquestionably " Spaces " was certainly the embryo from which fusion blossomed.

The album, in it`s short 36 minutes and 42 seconds covers many points on the jazz spectrum. An ominous bowed bass passage from Vitous introduces the title track, " Spaces ( infinite ) " which develops into an atonal guitar exchange between Coryell and McLaughlin and certainly the high point of the work. Subtle psychedelic undertones can be heard but there`s no overkill and it is by far the " rockiest " piece on the album with some use of distortion. " Rene`s Theme" while exluding the rythmn section is more than adequately compensated for with the frenzied bop-like rythmn patterns on behalf of both guitarists on this acoustic track which blends elements of Coltrane and Django who were big influences on both guitarists. To those unfamiliar with the guitarists` playing at the time ( and both had found their distinctive voices by 1969 ) it might be hard to discern who is playing what but not to worry the liner notes solve this problem. In General, Coryell does most of the soloing ( hey he`s allowed, it`s his record OK ) while McLaughlin provides well timed rythmn inserts. An example of Coryell`s insane soloing can be found on " Wrong Is Right" where he let`s loose with a lightning speed silent barrage which would defy any guitar player`s immagination. Two of the more pensive pieces on the album also feature some interesting experimentations. " Gloria`s Step " is introduced by another bowed bass passage from vitous and at first on might think it`s a cello playing. " Chris ", which is obviously a Bill Evans inspired piece, features Chick Corea on electric piano. His playing here is both poetic and enticing and imerses the listener into an almost surealistic pleasurable dream which complement Coryell`s rising and falling guitar ideas. A mention also should be made of Cobham who pulses his way along with the group and fits in so perfectly sometimes you forget he`s there because of some of the grooves he gets into.

Nothing really peaks on " Spaces " and while lacking the razzle dazzle of the fusion bands it inspired, it relies on raw in-your-face sincere playing on behalf of all the musicians with only minimilistic use of volume & distortion. No studio tricks or wah wah pedals here folks. If you`re expecting an amps turned to eleven last man standing guitar battle royale then you`l have to look to other avenues. What you get here is two young virtuoso guitarists interacting beautifully who obviously have respect for each other`s respective talents. By a long shot one of the more challenging jazz albums ever recorded and even if it runs a mere 36 minutes+ it seems like an eternity. Perhaps not the best starting point for one wishing to explore the musical mind of Larry Coryell but if you`re looking for something adventurous you`ve come to the right place with " Spaces". Fusion before fusion. Precious. 5 stars what else.

Vibrationbaby | 5/5 |


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