Tuesday, November 27, 2018

JACK BRUCE AND FRIENDS LARRY CORYELL, MITCH MITCHELL and MIKE MANDEL

This recording of a live French radio broadcast of Larry Coryell (guitar), Jack Bruce (bass) and Mitch Mitchell (drums) has been circulating for years. Bruce and Mitchell were no longer with their respective former bands Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience (though Mitchell would rejoin JH not long after this date) and Larry Coryell, recently of the Gary Burton group, was an emerging jazz-rock pioneer who'd already released a number of albums under his own name. The audio quality is excruciatingly bad, with the muddiest sound and scratchiest ambiance imaginable. The sub-par fidelity may be fitting, though, or at least ironic, as the mega power trio here, winging through a selection of tunes like "Sunshine of Your Love" and such features the energy of skilled musicians jamming against the static of the spheres. This is closer in spirit and execution to the proto-grunge thrash of  1969's Emergency, the first album by the Tony  Williams Lifetime, an early fusing of fleet improvisation fury and rock's bludgeoning power. Before it became slick, polished and professional,  before it morphed into the slick and largely gutless form termed "fusion", jazz-rock was dissonant, blaring, something of a battle of hard tones and contrasts as much influenced by Ornette Coleman and free-jazz advocates. These were the pains of something raw and beautiful coming into being. Coryell, Bruce, and Bruce get some of that on this recording, slipshod though the presentation may be. This is of historical importance mostly, I suppose, since none of these musicians would have signed off on something this woefully recorded to be released to the public no matter how cheap it might have been priced. If you're willing to bear with the barrage, chatter, and distortion,  you'll have a sense of what might have been. Bruce and Mitchell criss-cross rhythms in ways neither of them did in their previous bands; both had jazz backgrounds and this shows a little of what they might have done. Coryell is at his choppy best, a veritable geyser of dive - bombing riffs, Quicksilver runs, thorny power chords and swaths of strategically placed feedback. He plays like a man liberated, a high tension combination of Sonny Sharrock and Albert King, with more than a little Joe Pass and Link Wray tossed in. This trudges, stumbles, energizes and rocks the box it came in. Again, the worst recording you're likely to encounter, but worth a listen.

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