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Larry Coryell/Steve Smith/Steve Marcus/Kai Eckhardt: Count’s Jam Band Reunion

In the late ’60s, guitarist Larry Coryell and soprano saxophonist Steve Marcus experimented with electric jazz together as Count’s Jam Band before Coryell formed his own fusion band, The Eleventh House, and Marcus joined the Buddy Rich Band. The two of them found themselves working on a few of the same projects lately and decided to get together and record again as Count’s Jam Band. For the reunion, the front men recruited drummer Steve Smith, bass guitarist and John McLaughlin sideman Kai Eckhardt and, on a few tunes, jam-bander and pianist Jeff Chimenti. But make no mistake: this project is all Coryell and Marcus. For the most part, the two front men look to Eckhardt for repetitive bass loops and to Smith for a constant barrage of backbeat, which they offer without complaint. Subsequently, Coryell and Marcus jump through the unison heads and solo for minutes on end, running up and down their respective instruments and keeping things at a wailing three-quarter burn throughout. Not surprisingly, the Count’s Jam Band Reunion quickly becomes a tiresome event-especially on tunes like “Rhapsody and Blues,” a coy fusion treatment of the sort-of referenced Gershwin composition.

The better moments on the album come when the band jettisons formula, as on “Pedals and Suspensions” and “Ballad for Guitar and Soprano,” duets between an acoustic-playing Coryell and Marcus, and “Blues for Yoshiro Hattori,” one of the few tunes that gives pianist Chimenti some space. On the all-out rockers, the occasional squeal doesn’t cover up the saxophonist’s gentlemanly attack, and Marcus, playing at a leisurely pace and with a touch of blues, sounds much more comfortable in the more relaxed settings.

Originally Published