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Larry Coryell - Spaces CD (album) cover


Larry Coryell

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A must for guitar fans.

A 1969 recording from Coryell, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Billy Cobham, and Miroslav Vitous with no reviews? Well I am not a jazz expert by any means but I have to believe that this album must be considered quite important in the genre. It is not the heavy jazz-fusion rocking you'd expect from later works but more of a traditional jazz feel.

It certainly works for me. Dualing guitarists Coryell and McLaughlin tear it up throughout this nuanced collection of improv. They play acoustics and only lightly distorted electrics occasionally. They don't actually dual as much as they back each other up on individual excursions, one flailing like a madman while the other lays out these distinct chords in the background. Oh there is some playful dualing but mostly they try not to step on each other's toes. Cobham is great as he accentuates beautifully while not taking over the ceremonies. Corea appears only briefly on e-piano but it adds much to the atmosphere. As I said, I'm a novice on jazz history but there has to be some jazz nuts lurking who can give this album a proper review. Let's have it please!

The Vanguard VMD-79345 cd issue has a different album cover than the one shown here. It's a very colorful fantasy painting and does more justice to this fine music than the cover with Larry's profile. No offense Larry.

Report this review (#135267)
Posted Tuesday, August 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#145929)
Posted Friday, October 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Probably the album of Larry Coryell that he's most remembered for, and certainly the one of his breakthrough, Spaces came with this extraordinary colourful psychey artwork (a Jacques Wyrs painting) for a jazz album, even if not a pure jazz one. And what an all-star guest line-up too, inclining that LC had already gained respect from his pears way back in 69. Yes in some ways, Spaces is a groundbreaking album

Opening on the fusion-esque title track, which at times sounds like it was written by Ian Carr's troupes Nucleus without wind instruments, Spaces (credited to Larry's wife Julie) rocks right through your brains, with Larry taking first solo and McL the second, we're clearly heading for a guitar fest. We can even hear a bit of the future early Mahavishnu Orchestra in the ascending riff that comes back regularly throughout the 9 mins of the track. In the following track, René's theme, you'd swear that Django Reinhardt was playing, but it's not the case and neither is it for Django's pupil René Thomas (also a Belgian from Liège as Django was), but the track is from him. Closing up the A side, is Gloria's Step where Vitous takes the bow to his stand up bass, and the formation flies into what seems to be an improv, but the song is credited to LeFaro, so most likely, they were quite liberal in the adaptation.

On the flipside, the lengthy Right is Wrong is a cold and quick race between the guitar duo, an impressive showcase for both, both managing to have their own space and style, even if the type of jazz song didn't really allow it with its call for electro-acoustic guitars. Overall this track overstays its welcome a bit and is the weaker link on the album, but it still is an excellent one. The following 9-mins+ Chris (again credited to Julie) is much in the mould of its predecessor, but there is so much more happening here, Corea is making his presence felt on this track. A short guitar tidbits bids us farewell as the needle lifts off the wax plate.

Certainly one of LC's highlights in his career, Spaces remains a classic some almost 40 years after its first release. While this album is not a pure jazz-rock, it isn't a pure jazz album either, but it probably bends a bit more towards the latter possibility. Essential to confirmed early jazz rock fans wanting to understand the birth of JR/F.

Report this review (#163202)
Posted Wednesday, March 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars This album is one of the granddaddies of the jazz rock fusion world. While Miles Davis may be credited for popularizing fusion with the jazz crowd, it was artists like Larry Coryell (here with the help of other future fusion giants John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham, Miroslav Vitous and Chick Corea) who shaped it into the powerful form it took in the early seventies with bands like Return To Forever and The Mahavishnu Orchestra.

While the music here is still much closer to jazz than rock, you can hear the beginnings of what was to come. And the performances on this album are just spectacular. Coryell and McLaughlin play rings around each other on most of the songs, with Vitous on acoustic bass, sometimes bowed, and sometimes almost getting an electric bass-like sound.

Chick Corea only appears on one track (Chris), but no matter, the band on this album is so great that really don't need him on the rest of the album.

A super cool album.

Report this review (#298417)
Posted Friday, September 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
2 stars I'm pretty sure I had to wipe the drool from my chin when I first saw the lineup for this album. Larry Coryell and John McLaughlin on guitars, Miroslav Vitous double bass, Billy Cobham drums and Chick Corea electric piano. These guys should have burned the studio down they recorded in with that kind of fire-power right ? Well that's the problem, there is no fire. This comes across as one of those unplugged records or like a traditional acoustic Jazz album. So disappointed. It's like Coryell and McLaughlin are picking away usually in a fast paced manner but it all sounds the same and there is zero power. No amplified notes at all. Chick plays on one track only unfortunately because I do love the sound of electric piano.

Now there is what sounds like violin on a few songs including the opener "Spaces (Infinite), and i'm assuming it Vitous who does like to play bowed bass. This song changes tempos several times as the guitar and bass standout. "Rene's Theme" is more of the same as we hear strummed and picked guitar. Bass stands out 2 minutes in. "Gloria's Step" has more bowed bass with intricate guitar lines.

"Wrong Is Right" has uptempo picked guitar with cymbals and bass then bowed bass joins in. "Chris" is better as Corea helps out on electric piano but by this time i'm so done listening to this (haha). "New Year's Day In Los Angeles-1968" ends it with 20 seconds of guitar.

Great album cover and an incredible lineup. The music though lacks the "Rock" in Jazz / Rock.

Report this review (#795479)
Posted Friday, July 27, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Coryell hat guts asking these seasoned and high-calibre musicians to join his board. He must have convinced them probably also by shifting his sound more towards jazz after having initial more light-weight albums. It's certainly an ambitious record with great players. McLaughlin and Coryell make a great guitar duo, usually one soloing and another one accompanying. The bass guitar playing is competent but still more in the background. Corea makes nice electric piano chops on one track. The first track is first and foremost a guitar showcase with virtuosos teaming for fast fingerplaying using various styles from acid rock, jazz-rock to more jazz versed tightly supported by Cobham/Vitous. There are certain remote pre Mahavishnu touches.

"Rene's theme" sounds a bit like a nod to Django Reinhardt which proves how extremely versatile Coryell was. Acoustic guitar playing is excellent and lyrical. Only two guitars could successfully embark on such mission. "Gloria's step" is closer to jazz than rock, largely improvisational. "Wrong is right" shows typical Coryell fusion soloing that would be typical for the Eleventh house period, very fluid and with more emotions than for example McLaughlin. "Crisis" might be harder to digest due to loose rhythmical structure in absence of drums but electric piano adds nice touches.

Highly recommended together with Barefoot boy.

Report this review (#2345860)
Posted Saturday, March 28, 2020 | Review Permalink

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