Some of Larry Coryell's admirers have exalted him as the man who single-handedly invented fusion guitar. While that claim is a bit of an overstatement -- there were other jazz guitarists who were influenced by rock in the 1960s, including Pat Martino -- there's no doubt that he was a major innovator and played an indispensable role in the fusion revolution of the late '60s and '70s. Nor is there any question that everyone from John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola, and Bill Connors to Scott Henderson, Pat Metheny, and John Scofield is creatively indebted to him. A two-CD anthology that spans 1969-1979, Improvisations: Best of the Vanguard Years is full of trailblazing gems that were as important to jazz-rock as the breakthroughs of Miles Davis, Return to Forever, Weather Report, and McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. Improvisations kicks into high gear with seven selections from Coryell's groundbreaking Lady Coryell date of 1969 (which drew on influences ranging from Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall to Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton) before providing many of his essential '70s jewels, including the congenial "Joy Ride," the Davis-minded "Yin," the intriguing "Scotland, Pt. 1," the abstract "Entardescendo en Suadade," and the haunting "Spaces (Infinite)." The list of players joining Coryell reads like a who's who of fusion: John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Miroslav Vitous, Randy Brecker, Alphonse Mouzon, and Billy Cobham are among the risk-takers he plays with on these sessions. Mouzon and Brecker, in fact, were members of Coryell's 11th House, one of the most important jazz-rock bands of the '70s and a unit that is well represented on this double CD. For those with even a casual interest in fusion, Improvisations is essential listening.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2