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January/February 2003

Larry Coryell
Cedars of Avalon
HighNote Records

Larry Coryell's Cedars of Avalon (HighNote) has the relaxed vibe of a living room jam, which isn't surprising given the fact that the participants-Coryell, pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Buster Williams, drummer Billy Drummond and engineer Rudy Van Gelder-are old friends with many mutual projects under their belts. Coryell penned the title track as a salute to Walton, who returns the compliment with one of his characteristically lilting, melodic forays that simultaneously floats over and probes the tune's chord changes. Monk's "Bemsha Swing" finds Coryell conjuring images of one of his most important influences, the late Wes Montgomery, as he executes some Wes-like single-note phrases before tossing off a series of fat yet fleet octaves. In addition to the ensemble tracks, Coryell includes two relatively daring overdubbed duets on acoustic guitar: "Limehouse Blues," an almost folklike tribute to Barney Kessel, and "Shapes," a mathematically inspired paean to Donald Byrd. One of the most interesting things about the former leader of the Eleventh House is that while he's gotten more conservative in recent years by focusing on music that's pretty much straightahead-as he does on Cedars of Avalon-he still manages to work in some more experimental music with a liberating lack of self-consciousness.

Originally published in January/February 2003
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