Jazz fusion artist Larry Coryell has a new album out called Barefoot Man: Sanpaku. The album was released in October 2016 and I had a chance to sit down and chat with Larry about the album, his career and life. If you like jazz fusion, this is an album for you to pick up. Larry is headed is heading back out on tour, so take a look at his tour schedule and catch a live show if you get the opportunity. On to the interview.
YesterdazeNews: I have a copy of your new album Barefoot Man: Sanpaku and I have to say it’s a really interesting album. What is your inspiration behind this new album?
Larry Coryell: The inspiration was actually an album that I had named many years ago, I think in the early 70s, called Barefoot Boy when I was much younger. And John Lappen…you know John?
Oh yes, I have worked with John and a few of his other artists.
Well, he suggested that I go back and listen to that record before I start this new project with Cleopatra to get some ideas. And I took his suggestion. And it worked very successfully, because I didn’t wanna duplicate anything from that earlier record. But by listening to it… and I didn’t listen to the whole thing. But listening to just enough, it helped me revisit the mindset, which was kind of accent on funk, ranging from, like, pretty raw funk into more of a thinking man’s funk in some of the areas into some… And then after that theme was established, anything else I would compose after that would somehow relate to the original germ, and the original seed.
You’re considered a real fusion musician. I’ve listened to a lot of your work and nothing ever really sounds the same to me. How do you keep that inspiration going from album to album so that you still have something that’s very unique that comes out? It seems that a lot of musicians tend to pigeonhole themselves into having a particular sound, but you have this fusion that ranges in all different aspects. How do you maintain that?
Well, I listen a lot. I try to listen to everything else that’s going on. And I also am happy to take suggestions from people. And I like to read about what other people are doing. And I practice a lot. I do a lot of musical research. Some of the stuff on Barefoot Man: Sanpaku was derived from my years long study of Stravinsky, studying Stravinsky for many years.
Now, when you’re listening to a lot of the other artists out there as you study, do you listen to one specific kind of genre? Or do you find yourself actually going out and listening to something just completely abstract and way out there, I don’t know, maybe some hip hop or something else that’s out there? Do you find yourself listening to other people’s music that the style is a far reach from jazz?
If it’s good, I’ll listen to it. I like opera very much. I like classical music. Some hip hop is good. But also, I like to watch old movies and discover little gems that have been used, in now forgotten black and white movies, where there’s a little piece of music that’s very precious. And I’m not unaware of that.
You’ve been making music in your career for a long time. When you first got inspired for music, who would you say that really sparked that inspiration? You came from an era of really fantastic musicians at the time you were getting started.
Yeah, everybody inspired me, everybody who was good inspired me, especially Wes Montgomery and John Coltrane and Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
What do you think about the music industry today? It’s changed a lot. And, I mean, you’ve had such a long career, and you’ve seen a lot of the different aspects of how things have gone. And I know a lot of people today keep saying that…it seems like music is dead, or the way the music industry has changed has hindered the way they make music. What do you think of today’s music industry?
Well, I think you’ve described everything exactly accurately. And it’s a shame for everyone, but especially for up and coming emerging musicians.
I read that you spent some time living up here in the northwest, in Richland, Washington?
Yeah, I grew up there.
Do you miss this area at all now that you live in Orlando?
Is it you prefer the beach and the heat that’s in Florida? Or is it just the people?
No, Florida is nice, because at my age, I need to live in a warm place. But Tracey (my wife) and I both love Massachusetts and New York and Italy. We love Italy. Italy’s number one. Ireland is another country we love. That’s number two. And my wife, she’s also a pop singer and a composer. She’s also very active in causes for the orca whale. And she’s also active in the cause for lupus. She raised a lot of money for the Lupus Foundation in Detroit last year. So she’s very active.
Do you and your wife collaborate together?
Well, she’s a pop musician, more like Sarah McLachlan, people like that, Shawn Colvin. And I don’t really play that as my first style. But things where I can play with her…like, I did a couple of solos and rhythm tracks on her new record. But she has to have her own band.
So then you collaborate a little bit here and there. And then you’ve got your jazz music that’s going on. Do you collaborate with a wide variety of artists today still?
Absolutely, the whole nature of jazz is the ability to collaborate.
Are you working on any other types of projects outside of what you just released currently?
Yeah. We made a new Eleventh House record, that fusion band I referred to that was born in ’73. We made a new Eleventh House Record at the beginning of the year. And they’re holding off release until we start touring in 2017.
What do you have coming up next year?
I’m playing at the Berlin Philharmonic with a solo guitarist from Europe named Phillip Catherine. And then I’m gonna play over in, I think, St. Petersburg with a Scottish guitarist named Martin Taylor, who’s quite good and a dear friend mine and a local guy who’s very good. So that’s what we have going for January. You know, the work just pours in. It comes in…if it’s a little late, I don’t mind it, because it means I can stay home.
So then you stay pretty busy then with touring?
Yeah. This year, my view has changed a little bit, so I’m not chasing that dollar like I used to. I mean, at my age, I don’t have that frenetic Sammy Glick type thing that I had before. I was one of those people. I’d look in my calendar. If there was open spots, I’d have a nervous breakdown.
And I look for those open spots. I think I’d have a nervous breakdown if couldn’t find an open spot. I’ve already learned at my age to kind of slow down.
Yeah, well, actually even though I haven’t lived there since 1965, Western Washington is really nice. I’m pretty sure it’s not lost its core attraction. You know, the people are really very sweet people and very open minded. And there’s nothing like the mountains, St. Helens, Baker, Rainier, Olympia. And in our section of the woods, we get to occasionally drive by Mount Adams, which I think is one of the most perfectly shaped mountains in the Cascades. And then Mount Hood, of course, we get down into Oregon, and you see the three sisters. You keep going, you get to Mount Shasta. West Coast is a totally different entity from the East Coast.
What advice would you give anybody that’s wanting to make music today and that’s just kind of, you know, still in their new phase? Is there any advice you would offer them?
Yeah, just go for it, go for it, follow your dream. Most musicians just can’t help what they’re doing. They can’t help it. It’s not like they even chose it. It’s just like they have to do it.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share?
Well, I’m very proud to be from the Northwest, I mean, when all is said and done. I’m very proud to be from such a beautiful place, both Western Washington and Eastern Washington. I spent a month in Chicago with my brother, who was actually born in Richland in 1952. And an old friend of his showed up from Kelso, Washington. I don’t know if you know where that is? We had the nicest time. And then I came to understand that Washingtonians are very different. Like I said earlier, they’re very open-minded and very nice and a lot of intelligence. And with the exception of people like Glenn Beck, they’re not rightwing fanatics. You’re gonna have a few rightwing fanatics everywhere you go. It’s just the nature of things. But I just remember my feet would almost become like a duck’s foot by the third or fourth week of January or early February, you know, the rains after Thanksgiving all through Christmas, all the way up to April. It’s rain, rain, rain, rain, rain. That was kind of rough. That was always hard for me. But it forced me to stay inside and practice.
So would you say that that probably helped to create you and mold you as a musician?
I’d like to think so. Maybe my little pet dream is maybe to come back there and take a teaching position somewhere in Puget Sound area. And I know my wife would love it up there and finish up my days up there because its paradise.
Well, you know, at the universities, we’re rich of universities around here, and they could use great musicians to teach the future generations of what music is.
Well, I’m available.
I hope that you have a great tour and that this album that you’ve put out, you know, it garners you, you know, a lot more success along with the career that you’ve already had. It’s a very good album. So I can’t wait for people to hear about it. And I’d like to thank you for your time.