Murali Coryell is the talented guitar playing son of jazz guitarist, Larry Coryell. While the elder Coryell's feet are firmly planted in jazz, Murali's tastes lean more toward the areas of blues, rhythm & blues and soul. Listening to Murali's recordings, especially 2120 or Eyes Wide Open make his musical focus quite clear. Even more interesting was reading local South Florida press clippings about Coryell's show at The BamBoo Room, where he was repeatedly tied far more to jazz and his father than his true musical leanings.
I got my first chance to see Murali Coryell perform live on the second night of his two night performance at The BamBoo Room in Lake Worth, Florida. After a typically uneventful trip north from my hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, I made it to my seat just in time for the start of Coryell's first set. Provided with solid backup from drummer Reggie Smith and bassist Don Miller, the talented guitarist opened with "I Can't Hold Out" from his 1999 release 2120 (the address numbers for Chess Records offices on Michigan Avenue). Unlike the recorded version, Coryell provided an extended instrumental opening for "I Can't Hold Out" that, along with his vocals, reminded me a bit of Johnny Winter. Coryell moved almost seamlessly from song to song, with only a few comments or introductory statements before certain songs. The songs themselves included the sounds of blues, rhythm & blues, funk and soul. Songs were mixed from 2120 and Eyes Wide Open with a few unrecorded numbers mixed in for good measure.
Coryell's music is very straightforward, relying on his masterful guitar and distinctive vocals to make things more interesting for the listener. The smaller than usual audience at The BamBoo Room on Saturday night were VERY appreciative of Coryell's hard work and talent. Each song included a stream of hot guitar licks in between Coryell's vocals. Originals like the funky "Stop" and "That Makes Me Happy," a nice ballad, demonstrated Coryell's song writing talent as well as his versatility as a guitarist. During "Eyes Wide Open," Coryell broke a string on his Stratocaster and segued into a bass solo by Don Miller so he could change guitars. Later, during Willie Dixon's classic, "Hidden Charms," Coryell included a drum solo by Reggie Smith so he could switch back to the restrung, retuned Strat. The changes were very smooth and would have seemed planned if one didn't know better. Coryell ended the first of two sets that evening with what turned out to be my favorite song, a great version of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing," with his guitar and vocals capturing the audience in his energy and emotion.
The second set was filled with the same energy as the first and seemed to end far too soon, even though we had magically moved into Sunday morning. Coryell is an excellent guitarist and deserves to have greater recognition for guitar work that definitely challenges that of his more well known father. It was a great evening and one that I hope will be repeated again in the not too distant future, perhaps in my hometown of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Until then, I will keep his CDs going on my player for my regular dose of Murali Coryell's enormous talent.
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