Recorded in 1972, guitarist Larry Coryell's Offering has often been overlooked because it was the album that was released just before the debut of his legendary fusion band the Eleventh House. It's too bad, too, since Coryell's playing here is so inspired and free of the intellectual trappings of some of his later work. The band on Offering is a crack jazz-rock outfit made up of drummer Harry Wilkinson, bassist Melvyn Bronson, soprano saxophonist Steve Marcus, and electric pianist Mike Mandel (also a founding member of the Eleventh House). The vibe on this set is akin to the rugged jazz-rock forging of Soft Machine beginning on Fourth. And while it's tempting to lump this set in with the rest of the fused-out fare of the time, Offering is a distinctly -- and consciously -- more melodic record than those issued by Coryell's contemporaries at the time. Compositions such as "Foreplay," with its loping soprano and keyboard lines, stand apart from most of the Miles Davis-inspired crowd (Hancock, Corea, et. al), and "Ruminations" with its knotty, striated bop lines, comes on strong from the middle of three entwining harmonic figures to reach out and create a melodic framer from the pathos; Coryell's solo, which is equal parts Jimi Hendrix and Sonny Sharrock, is a wonderfully scorching and elusive sprite. Beginning with "Scotland I," which closes out side one, the jams get a bit more abstract and a bit more involved with the primacy of improvisation without losing their lyrical sensibilities. Offering is, in its own way, every bit as strong as the Eleventh House's debut and deserves to be considered hand in hand with it.
by Thom Jurek