Larry Coryell, the guitarist known as “The Godfather of Fusion”, died Sunday night in New York at the age of 73. He had played at Iridium on Friday and Saturday night and died in his hotel room on Sunday night.
Coryell was always considered primarily a jazz guitarist but his free-form style appealed to rock crowds playing with other genre-bending artists like John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham.
Born in Galveston, TX, his family moved to Richmond, WA where he played in numerous local bands like the Jailers and the Rumblers while still in high school.
After a stint studying journalism at the University of Washington, Larry transferred to the Mannes School of Music in New York and joined Chico Hamilton’s quintet, replacing Gabor Szabo, in the mid-60’s. By the later part of the decade, he had played with Gary Burton and the psychedelic group The Free Spirits.
While his earliest recorded performances can be heard on albums like The Dealer by Chico Hamilton and Playback (1967) by The Appletree Theatre, he released his first set as a leader with Larry Coryell in 1968. He followed in 1969 with Coryell and in 1970 with Spaces with John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham, Miroslav Vitouš and Chick Corea, an album that considered to be instrumental in the start of fusion-jazz.
In 1973, Coryell formed the group The Eleventh House and found that their fusion of rock and jazz was popular in college towns around the U.S.
Over the course of the 70’s, Coryell recorded over twenty albums including a period where he mainly worked acoustically. In 1979, he formed The Guitar Trio with McLaughlin and flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia, releasing a live album, before Larry was replaced by Al Di Meola due to Coryell’s escalating drug use.
Since 1980, Coryell had continued to record, widening his style and interests, recording solo albums along with collaborations with the likes of Buster Williams, Victor Wooten, Lenny White and Phillip Bailey. He also composed operas based on classic literature.
Coryell’s last album was Barefoot Man: Sanpaku while he was working on a reformed Eleventh House with a planned June release for their set Seven Secrets.
He is survived by his wife, Tracey, four children and six grandchildren.