I think Larry Coryell (1943-2017) has to be one of the most underrated guitarists in modern music. Aside from his clear historical significance in melding jazz and rock guitar traditions and techniques, the pure artistic brilliance with which he straddled those lines is rather stunning. While nowadays it may be more common for guitarists to be fully fluent in both of those arenas, Coryell broke tremendous ground for all of the youngins. Many rock guitarists lack the rhythmic nuance and harmonic fluency to play jazz authoritatively, and many jazz guitarists sound comparatively wimpy and/or cerebral when they play rock. Larry pulled off both with utter conviction, and I’ve always been particularly enamored of the contexts in which he has been able to do both.
The music world lost one of the most prolific providers of bottom end when bassist Bob Cranshaw passed away yesterday. These are some of my favorite performances of Bob’s.
10 (+1) favorite tracks by the great saxophonist Steve Wilson. Enjoy!
Aside from being in shock that Bobby Hutcherson is gone, I struggle to figure out a way to summarize his musical contributions. For me his music will always be defined by the way his infectious warmth and rugged creative searching shattered any listener’s capacity to put the resulting music into a rigid box. Here is a small sampling of my favorites from his discography.
I’m a fan of Phoebe Snow from two different angles, angles that one might even deem at odds with one another. As I contemplate what in music resonates the most with me (something I do approximately 5 times a day) and ponder what life is about (something I do approximately 10 times a day), Phoebe keeps coming to my mind.
Like so many, I can’t believe that Prince is gone, and I’m struggling not only to reconcile that, but also to reflect with any coherence on his impact on my own musical conception. When I was a kid, I listened eagerly to all his singles and watched his videos, with no conception of anything else [...]
My biggest “eureka” moment as a budding jazz musician (or, to be accurate, the moment when I decided I needed to BE a budding jazz musician and not just a dabbler) came the first time I heard “Magical Trio 2″ by James Williams, like the moment in the “Wizard of Oz” where it goes from black & white to color – in a flash I heard everything I wanted music to be, all in one place. If life were just, the Soulful Mister Williams would’ve been 65 today.
Every few years I dust off Ted Dunbar’s “A Nice Clean Machine for Pedro” and challenge my students at Wesleyan to learn it – such a gorgeous and deceptively challenging tune. Last year I wrote about Ted’s impact as an educator, but now it’s time to talk about his unique and powerful voice as a guitarist and composer.
It seems that with each year it gets harder to keep up with all the great music being released. I began with a Top 10 list, and in the end struggled to narrow it down to even 20.
In times of turbulence (or, I should say, times when for whatever reasons we are acutely aware of turbulence) I and many in my line of work contemplate the big question of whether music is a sufficiently “important” pursuit. My honest answer is “yes and no.”