Larry Coryell flirted with initial fame touring as the guitarist with Jack Bruce (Cream,) drummer Mitch Mitchell (Hendrix,) and Mike Mandell’s organ in 1970. (*There are Internet tapes of this exact same band recorded at the Fillmore East from January 31st, 1970.) The youthful Coryell had also previously toured and/or recorded with Chico Hamilton, Gary Burton, Herbie Mann, Coryell’s own: The Free Spirits band, plus had worked with John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Billy Cobham and Miroslav Vitous’ on the legendary “Spaces” album that (like this record) was also released on the Vanguard label. Which takes us to “At the Village Gate” recorded on two dates; January 21st and 22nd, 1971. Coryell was twenty-seven and hadn’t reached his latter day stardom like he achieved with his Eleventh House band. This recording assembles a (sort of) power-trio consisting of Coryell’s guitar and vocals, Marvin Bronson’s bass and Harry Wilkinson on drums with Julie Coryell’s vocal on the closing track. Five tracks are included; two authored by Larry, one by (then husband and wife) Larry and Julie Coryell. There are also two covers songs one penned by Chick Corea, and a Jack Bruce tune. As noted earlier; Larry Coryell had already recorded and/or toured with both Corea and Bruce.
The opener by Mr. Coryell is appropriately titled “The Opening” is totally Hendrix influenced, (*Hendrix had passed four months prior to this performance) Coryell’s vocal intro is short lived as he and the band begin to stretch-out instrumentally including wah-wah, and Jimi like guitar phrasings. “After Lester” also authored by Larry is less rocking than “The Opening” and zips along at fairly high-speeds and continues to throttle upwards as the jam escalates. Chick Corea’s “Entardecendo en Saudade” follows with an irregular beat that sets as a liftoff vehicle for the band to riff off of that’s not only wild, though it doesn’t feel like a Corea song but it allows Coryell space(s) to extrapolate and explore. Jack Bruce’s “Can You Follow? (Dance on the Green Hill)” is the longest inclusion that logs in at a little over nine minutes is introduced in a light and airy haze that doesn’t last long when the jam takes flight with Coryell piloting at warp-factor speed with corresponding fleet-footed creativity. Closing the set is Julie and Larry Coryell’s “Beyond the Chilling Winds” with Mrs. Coryell’s vocals alongside her husband, it’s kind of odd vocally but once they get passed the lyrics Mr. Coryell guitar accelerates and rocks out into the stratosphere. It’s an outstanding finale.
With typical Real Gone Music style; the (recently penned) liner notes by music journalist Bill Kopp add volumes of backdrop fact(s) about; the era and circumstances about this recording, also added are a couple of early 1970’s photos; and they even document the track length times.
In summary Larry Coryell truly excels throughout this live recording. Though I wasn’t crazy about Coryell’s rhythm section of bassist Bronson and especially Wilkinson’s plodding drumming. Labeling this these three musicians as a power-trio would be an over exuberant statement. But in the final analysis this performance is all about the fascinating and flourishing Larry Coryell who easily steals the show, so much so to the astonishment of this reviewer.
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