Larry Coryell RIP
Larry Coryell Passed Away
I was very sad to find out that Larry Coryell had passed away on Sunday. He was one of my favourite guitarists and I had got to know him a bit over the years. He was consider by many to be the Godfather of Fusion and his main commercial success was in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. He was still releasing records and had just done two gigs over the weekend at the Iridium in New York. He had played with an amazing amount of musicians from Jimmy Hendrix to Miles Davis and pretty much everyone in between.
I was first introduced to him by the drummer Lenny White and we got on really well and stayed up to the early hours talking about and playing guitars. He was amazing and I felt well out of my depth. This was at a time before my formal recovery where I managed periods of sobriety before falling apart again. I was drinking tea that night and Larry told me that he had stopped drinking alcohol and drugs as well. I had not realised that he had experienced problems in the past but he later spoke about it openly in his book. He left a powerful impression on me that you could still be creative without the help of intoxication. i would recommend all his DVDs on how to play guitar if you are advanced and really want to challenge yourself.
Larry Coryell Bolero live improvisation.
A few years later and I was back to square one. I had just joined AA after a period of really heavy drinking and drugging that will hopefully be my last. This was 10 years ago. I knew I had to find things to fill my day and I decided to buy some books as I was hardly sleeping and thought I may as well use this time in a useful way. I saw Larry’s book and bought it and it became one of the most important books I have read. It told his life story and talked about the highs and lows of addiction as well as his career in music. He also spoke about how meditation had helped him recover. This impressed me and I thought, if he can do this then so can I. Meditation was not something I got into until a couple of years later but I think reading this book started me thinking that perhaps it was worth trying. It has certainly been of being it to me as well. I found his story really inspiring and am sure I am not the only one.
I think Larry’s guitar playing certainly became more consistent when he stopped drinking and I love a lot of the acoustic work he did along with some of his more mainstream jazz recordings such as those with an organ trio. He was a master of all styles and I was lucky enough to see him play quite a few times over the years and to talk with him. I saw him help others and give good advice to people but he was never someone to make a big thing about doing this. He was really friendly to my partner and once stood in front of our table in Ronnie Scott’s and played an amazing Version of Bolero on an acoustic guitar.
He seemed to know quite a few people at his concerts and would always acknowledge people straight away and find some time for them. He really seemed relaxed with everyone and happy to play for people. The last thing he said to me was “see you at the gig in Camden with 11th house”. Sadly that did not take place due to him and other band members having health issues last year. He seemed to have recovered, so it was a shock to find out he had passed away, this morning.
I will miss listening to him play but will also miss his warmth as a person. He had been sober since 1981 and that is an amazing achievement especially for someone who is playing in clubs and on the road for a lot of the year. Like most people who have been through addictions and recovery who have really managed to get their life together, he was very supportive of other people. He will be missed by his friends in the recovery community round the world as well as his family and fans of his music.