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December 1998

Larry Coryell/ Tom Coster/ Steve Smith
Cause and Effect

Whoa! Check the calendar.

This power trio encounter between drummer Steve Smith, Hammond B-3 organist Tom Coster and fusion guitar pioneer Larry Coryell sounds like outtakes from a 1972 session. And I assure you, this is a good thing. A very good thing indeed.

Hardcore fusion fans had virtually written off Coryell in the '90s after his rather tame radio-friendly offerings for CTI like Live from Bahia and Fallen Angel. He had a welcome return to guitar hero form last year with the superb Spaces Revisited (Shanachie), which paired him with disciple Bireli Lagrene, former Zawinul Syndicate bassist Richard Bona, and drumming great Billy Cobham (who had appeared on the original Spaces session from 1970). But nothing that Larry has done in the past 20 years equals the ripping intensity and exhilaration of this all-out power trio blow-out.

Between the opening salvo of the odd-metered "These Are Odd Times," with its ferocious exchanges of eights, and the fuzz-and-wah inflected scorcher, "Plankton," you can feel the renegade spirit of this recording. Versatile drummer Smith (whose credits range from Jean-Luc Ponty to rock supergroup Journey to Steps Ahead and his own group Vital Information) is basically the A&R presence behind Tone Center, a staunch fusion label started up earlier this year by guitar maven Mark Varney, who is also the head of the heavy metal label Shrapnel Records. Smith's intent is to provide an outlet for true fusion chopsmeisters to wail with no holds barred. He's already done precisely that in previous power trio outings with Tribal Tech guitarist Scott Henderson and Bela Fleck & The Flecktones bassist extraordinaire Victor Wooten (Vital Tech Tones) and with Vital Information guitarist Frank Gambale and Joe Satriani bassist Stuart Hamm (Show Me What You Can Do). Cause And Effect is equally over-the-top.

"Wrong Is Right" and "First Things First" are more traditional, swinging jazz organ trio romps that highlight the trio's bop facility, and "Bubba" is a bit of funk done up in a Meters vein, supported by Smith's syncopated Zigaboo-styled backbeats. But it's the more savage, unrelenting and shamelessly 'notey' jams like "Night Visitors" and the adrenaline-pumped "Miss Guided Missle" that will really get fusion maniacs drooling. It's been a long time since they've been catered to. This one should be received by them with the same zeal that hungry lions greet scraps of red meat at the Bronx Zoo.

Originally published in December 1998
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