RIP Larry Coryell

Legendary guitarist dies at 73

By Gary Graff
February 22, 2017

The man known as the “Godfather of Fusion” is with us no more.

Larry Coryell passed away on Sunday (Feb. 19) in a New York hotel room while in town to play over the weekend at Iridium Jazz Club. Coryell, who was 73, died in his sleep of natural causes, according to his publicist.

The Texas-born, Seattle-raised guitarist studied journalism at the University of Washington while also studying guitar privately, moving to New York in 1965 to focus on classical styles.

He mixed a variety of influences — from John Coltrane and Wes Montgomery to Chuck Berry, Chet Atkins, the Beatles and the Byrds — to create his jazz/rock fusion style, debuting on drummer Chico Hamilton’s album The Dealer and then playing in bands such as the Free Spirits and the Eleventh House and releasing more than 60 solo albums — including 1969’s Spaces, which featured John McLaughlin, and classical compositions.

During a recent interview, Coryell told us: “Time marches on and I look back on my career and I’m very fortunate music was very high on the priorities of my generation. Musicians were the leaders of society in the 60s and 70s. Now the leaders today are the most successful capitalists. There’s nothing wrong with making a lot of money, but I think it was better when the music led.”

Coryell’s latest album, Barefoot Man: Sanpaku, came out in October, while a reunited Eleventh House set, Seven Secrets, is due out June 2.

Coryell is survived by his wife, Tracey, four children and six grandchildren. A memorial service is slated for Friday (Feb. 24) at New York’s SGI-USA Buddhist temple.