It was Monday night, and I was looking foward to the "Jazz Jam" at our local coffee house. I decided to see if any of the guys from my favorite music store, Guitar Haven, felt like having dinner. Co-Owner, Ted Katz, agreed that some ribs at Meg O'Malleys sounded too good to pass up, and off we went.
Our conversation (over an ale) was surprisingly elevated as Larry Coryell came our way. Escorted by singer/songwriter Tracy Piergross and Paul Santa Maria, Larry stopped by our table to say hello. Okay, maybe we ambushed him - either way, we were able to say hello and he invited us to sit with him.
After dinner, I invited Larry to have coffee with us, as I thought it would be a nice surprise for the guys at the jam. Larry had previously played with the bandleader, Bill Van Riper, and I mentioned that Bill would love to see him. I was right.
Larry decided to come by and the rest was magic. When the guys saw Larry arrive, the adrenaline kicked in and everyone scurried to find their best chops. After a few tunes, Bill asked Larry to come up and play a few. Larry obliged. The consumant expert, Larry calmed the boys down by calling the ballad, "Star Eyes," playing ever so layed back with every note sublime.
Feeling like the band had what it took to move on, Larry played a solo intro to "Bumpin on Sunset," which floored the place. Accompanied by Dan Latt on keyboards, Ron Pirtle on upright bass, and Jeff Abbot on drums, the band (and audience) were treated to a rare experience. Larry and company closed out the first set with a smokin version of "Autumn Leaves."
Paul had an amp in his trunk and brought it in during the break. Bill opened up the second set with Larry taking the lead on "Darn That Dream." This is one of my personal favorite ballads. Bill and Larry took turns treating the house to a beautiful exchange of improvisation. They upped the tempo and followed it up with a swingin' blues. Everyone got a chance to go around a few times. The scene was receptive. We all knew that something real special was going on in front of us.
A few standards later, Larry called up friend Paul Santa Maria. I immediately called out for one of Paul's original tunes, "Pascual Lives." This song is Paul's finest writing to date, proven by the fact that Wayne Shorter has taken it into several international settings with very positive feedback. Larry followed this up with an uptempo blues, calling changes to the guys and pushing the tempo to a frenzy. The house was alive with excitement.
Larry swapped places with Van Riper, resulting in a real battle of the licks between Bill and Paul. Larry again showed these guys how to push it up a notch. These guys were flying around the fretboard, as if this were a steel cage death match. When it was finished, there were smiles, hugs and a very happy group of witnesses.
Larry introduced the audience to Tracy, by calling namesake Tracy Chapman's "Gimme One Reason." Ms. Piergross responded with a smooth rendition of the tune, accompanied by Larry on a very jazzy set of changes. This was real special, as Tracy really demonstrated her sence of phrasing on this cover.
Late in the night, blues guitarist Steve Thorpe, wandered into the jam. He went up and displayed his chops for Larry in a jam with Paul Santa Maria, which was recieved with accolades. The magic just didn't quit. But like all special nights, which are rare jems for us to carry along, this evening came to an end with a few words from Larry to the audience, and other players. "Jazz is alive, and Melbourne has some great players." He was gracious, and gave us all a memory that will not be forgotten.
Larry, thank you for a very special evening.