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Song for My Father

A son remembers his brilliant father, as man and musician

Julian and Larry Coryell (photo courtesy of the artist)
Julian Coryell (photo by Katja Livingston)
Julian Coryell (photo by Katja Livingston)
Larry Coryell's 11th House (from left): Julian Coryell, Larry Coryell, Randy Brecker, Alphonse Mouzon, John Lee (photo courtesy of Silverlake Media/Savoy Jazz)
Larry Coryell's 11th House (from left): Julian Coryell, Larry Coryell, Randy Brecker, Alphonse Mouzon, John Lee (photo courtesy of Silverlake Media/Savoy Jazz)

When the guitarist Larry Coryell died on Feb. 19 at age 73, he left much in his wake: a fiery album by his band 11th House, titled Seven Secrets and released June 2; a legacy as a fusion pioneer whose musical curiosities knew no bounds; and a large and loving family. Just a few days after Coryell’s death, his family, friends and fans gathered at the SGI-USA Buddhist Center in New York, to grieve and reflect on a radiant life that nevertheless saw many personal and professional challenges. Among the most moving tributes was a eulogy by his son Julian, the L.A.-based guitarist, singer and songwriter. An edited and condensed version of these remarks originally appeared in the July/August issue of JazzTimes.

Whether we know it or not, we all have calculated a personal number that corresponds to the final age of someone we love. It’s the number we expect them to reach before they depart, and you’ll find that that number exists for those you love most (and for yourself). It’s a wonky equation based mostly on emotions and wishes—a number that allows us to feel like this time on Earth is equitable and fair. I had a number in mind for my father. I can tell you, it wasn’t 73.

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