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Larry Coryell: Tricycles

On Tricycles, Larry Coryell takes to the studio with drummer Paul Wertico and fretless bass stylist Mark Egan, both former Pat Metheny sidemen (at different times). Not known primarily for their straightahead jazz playing, Wertico and Egan are solid on five Coryell originals, two Monk tunes, a waltz by Egan and a freely improvised sketch. But Coryell’s guitar tone is relatively thin, and next to Egan’s broad, spongy lows it sounds even thinner. The leader’s unaccompanied finale, an acoustic reading of the Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home” (paying strict and loving attention to the original chords), comes as a welcome timbral contrast.

In his notes, Coryell confides that the trio was feeling quite beat at this session, recorded in the midst of a European tour. They begin in the comfort zone with the midtempo blues “Immer Geradeaus” (“always straightahead” in German). Coryell flubs the spiky, fourths-based melody of “Dragon Gate” but hits his stride on one of his oldest pieces, “Good Citizen Swallow.” “Tricycles,” a warm and interesting piece by Egan, begins with subtle references to “Blue in Green,” then expands. “Spaces Revisited” is the tightest, most compelling performance of the date, although Coryell is also at his best on “‘Round Midnight,” taking the coda at an exaggeratedly fast clip and closing with a heartfelt cadenza. “Well You Needn’t” sounds rote in comparison.

Wertico’s StereoNucleosis is an entirely different beast. Meticulously produced, this follow-up to 2000’s Don’t Be Scared Anymore again features Wertico with guitarist John Moulder and bassist Eric Hochberg. But there are more hands on deck this time. Barbara Wertico, the drummer’s wife, overlays keyboards and gets cowriting credit on two tunes, not to mention her own acoustic ballad, “What Would the World Be.” Daughter Tali-a music critic in the making?-razzes the band at the close of the tossed-off country snippet “Down and Out on the Farm.” Even Rocky, the family pet, gets a bark in. Recording engineer Brian Peters, all of 19 years old, coproduced the effort with Wertico, and his creative spirit seems to loom large over the proceedings (he interjects violin, guitar, fretless bass and more). The tracks, ranging from percussion-based sound sculptures to gritty jazz-rock (with a strong emphasis on the rock), have their banal moments but add up to a refreshing, uncategorizable whole-right down to the maddening hidden track.

Originally Published