Thursday, January 31, 2019

BUSKER'S HOLIDAY

BUSKER'S HOLIDAY
by Adam Gussow
Adam Gussow, a professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi, is among the best younger scholars of blues culture one is likely to come across. He is no less, a superb, stylish, and gritty blues harmonica player who has, in his time, traveled and plied his trade as street musician and busker, most notably as part of the duo Satan and Adam, with guitarist/vocalist Sterling McGee. Gussow is the author of several fine books related to Southern and blues culture in America, and wrote a fine memoir of his relationship with McGee, “Mister Satan's Apprentice". This is mentioned just to establish that Gussow isn't a mere dilettante on the blues, mastering a few tricks and signature moves and then resting on laurels and a reputation made long ago; Gussow continues to gig, with McGee, as a solo performer, and in collaboration with a number of other musicians, often times in public, on the street, the hat out for loose change and scattered change, keeping himself honest with what he plays and maintaining a connection his vibe with the world of experience that is the energy the blues channels. He is a scholar who continues to seek the source, to find that invisible "it" behind the mere description and appearance of things as they present themselves.

His first novel, "Busker's Holiday", is, I imagine, a fictionalized accounting of his own quest, a young man at particular moment of his life when what he's been doing in terms of study, romance and location no longer fits the skin he wears and gets an itch to try something else, to what happens. Set in the 80s, the novel regards the plight of McKay, a doctoral candidate in literature whose life has hit a rough patch. Reeling from problems in his relationship with his girlfriend, McKay jumps at the chance to go on a five-week trip to Europe with his friend Paul. A blues fan, McKay gathers up his harmonicas and his amp, eager to perform before crowds on the Continent. McKay, the seeker of greater experience beyond the books and bourgeois heartache he has known so far, plunges into the center of things and allows himself to be swept along.There is something akin to novelist Henry James here, the 19th and early 20th Century American novelist who had as a major theme the confrontation of the New World (America) and the Old World (Europe). But where James' novels--"The American", "Wings of a Dove"--were long, measured, slow paced and geared to consider the interior lives, the changes of psyche, occurring over long stretches of time, Gussow instead goes for the Beat-influenced insistence on sensation, speed, the influx of sound, smell, and blurred vision. There is the velocity and mania of Jack Kerouac here, that point where the novel opens up with its landings in Paris and beyond, but author Gussow has a better command of the technique. He keeps the tone and pacing right; Kerouac and the Beats are an obvious and working influence on the style of this tale, but what we have here is something better and, I think, more honest to the experience. Kerouac is problematic for many of us, and for me, the issue was his willingness, his chronic need to make his already made pace even more intense with infusions of hip-argot, haphazardly placed modifiers.

To paraphrase Gore Vidal, Kerouac used adjectives, verbs, similes, metaphors “the way truck drivers uses ketchup at a diner.” Gussow has a better command of the style, the instrument, which that he gets closer to the Charlie Parker concern of “making it all fit”, the Spontaneous Bop Prosody that Kerouac’s principle aim with his prolix excursions. The writing is vivid, alive, the mellifluous sentences flow when he goes at length and the shorter sentences have something of the Hemingway craft of resonating terseness. The prose has a remarkable sense of balance as the sensations accumulate, seemingly one atop the other, like airplanes stacked over Holiday period airports, but rather than stumble or lose the beat, the details, the patter, the interior monologue reflecting upon and then joining in the conversation McMay is having with the world and the people he takes the journey with is deft, smooth. For all the temptation to write run-on sentences, without pause, until an idea actually hits him, Gussow has a remarkable craft here, giving the reader a broad, nearly all-encompassing view that at times threatens to become an impressionistic blur. He knows his tempos well and how effective they can be if used with the right measures of grace and restraint. There is a poetic crystallization that is not sacrificed in the name of dredging tangents and facile sightseeing.

It is a recollection that resonates. McKay is delivered very well; an engaging, seeking, impatient, naive, curious man in search for knowledge and new means to express a growing feeling of a rich inner life. The writing is swift but disciplined, loose but always aware of where the rhythm truly is, is a match for the harmonica playing and instrumentation you’ve described. It is a wonderful and engaging accounting of being within the experience of performance, or when the chops fail and where they come together.
A


Sunday, January 27, 2019

BLUES THAT MAKE YOU BLUER v BLUES THAT ARE TRUER

Image result for joe bonamassa
Blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa seems to be the white blues guitar saviour of choice for this part of the 21st century, a situation that has me tipping my hat to his technical acumen, his taste in guitar heroes, and the obvious work he put into his woodshedding to have those fancy chops at his disposal on demand. It's just too bad that all I get when listening intently to his long and frequent solos is the work involved in the effort to get all this text-book perfect. This is superhuman execution without commensurate passion. No fire under all that smoke. At a younger and less discriminating age, I might have been a fan, excited by his melodramatic playing and the authenticity of his rasping growl of a voice. No so much these days, not after a lifetime debating the merits and demerits of Clapton, Winter, SRV and the legions of other guitar heroes that populated the sports arenas off American cities in the 70s, Bonamassa seems no more than the advanced student who's perfected every cliche he could from the generation previously holding court without working on his own style, that rare item called an individual voice. What's the point, I suppose, is the enlightened way to take all this in, or ignore it outright. The last white blues guitar slinger to give me the figurative kick in the head was the late Gary Moore.


Image result for gary moore
Moore was the last of the great ones, I think, less so for the originality of his chops--save for the speed tested relish and elan of his riffing, little in the way of his velocity seemed new. Moore came by his flashiness naturally, as he loved the work of his defacto mentors--B.B., Albert and Freddy King, Buddy Guy, Peter Green, Erick Clapton--that he didn't want to insult what he perceived their greatness to be by merely mastering their licks faithfully, performing them on command with machine-tooled precision. His work sounds like the energy of someone who picked up on the tweaks, twists, and inventions of all his heroes and sought to find his way to play the blues Over the Top. There is a beautiful aggressiveness to his solos, a sublime benevolence to his fastest and flashiest note clusters. His lengthy expositions are not to everyone's taste, and ours is not a time when music fans of a younger generation speak obsessively of guitar heroes as a concern as essential as food, clothing, and shelter, but to the degree to which this musician committed himself to a style and particular approach to that style, Gary Moore's guitaring--to my tastes --was an inexhaustible font of inspired, riffing epiphanies. Moore mattered, or at least impressed the Dickens out of me, because of the obvious glee with which he took command of the blues-rock form. He might not have invented it, but he certainly ownership of it. He knew what to do with the prize he commandeered.

Joe Bonamassa just bores me with all his pro forma shuffles, boogies, rockers, and rave-ups. Slick, well constructed, and stiff as Disney robots. Technique without spirit, that distinguishing attribute that gives mastery of complex concepts a personality that distinguishes it from other virtuosos-in-waiting, isn't art but merely mechanics.







 
 
  

Sunday, January 20, 2019

THE GRAND TRINE --Color You




THE GRAND TRINE--Color You
Color You, an alt-rock unit residing in the sparky interiors of Los Angeles , awards its new album the heady appellation The Grand TrineStepping beyond the title’s intent to perplex and bewilder, we learn through a swift Google search that the phrase indicates “ …a planetary pattern composed of three or more planets in a chart located at the vertices of an imaginary equilateral triangle. Usually all three planets are in the same element (fire, earth, air or water)…”
 The attraction to the phrase and the concept it allusively describes is understandable, as it’s been an unwritten rule since rock and roll became abbreviated to the more serious brevity of “rock” in the Sixties and young bands , taking after the cowpoke existentialism of Dylan and the elegant gentrification of the Beatles’ music and lyric approaches, need to conceptualize on a more ambitious scale: esoteric thematics, abstruse lyrics, bits of incidental noise and anything else that saves the 4/4 from being mere dance music decorated with moon/June cliches. As with most bands trying to get across something more between-the-lines than curb-side specific, the Color You’s idea to suggest something metaphysical is afoot separate from what’s happening in the street is a tad pretentious , and the band’s decision to include what sounds like spoken word snippets to bookend the start and finish of this album underscores the impulse to seem profound .


It’s an empty gesture, and unneeded, but we’re fortunate that as alt-rockers fashioning themselves after power chord savants like the Pixies, Nirvana or Modest Mouse at their most engaged, Color You has the flair,the panache, the raining megaton guitar grit to move the reluctant listener quickly past their objections and land them in a hook-heavy stream of fine, riffing teenage angst, confusion, ire and irony. 



There are no bold innovations in the form here, no musical adventures geared to dismantle and reconstruct rock and roll as we know, and that is an aspect that is the band’s strength. Members Ben Ross (vocals/guitar), Brian Han (bass/vocals), Drew Stutz (drums) and Theo Eckhardt (guitar/vocals), above all else, put together first-rate rockers, propulsive guitar riffage that propels, sweeps along and drapes over the material , major , minor and diminished keys highlighted as the materials’ simple but effective demand, with a solid thump and push of bass and busy drums making this wall of sound tilt, swerve and rock in turns of emphasis that are unexpected and wonderful. Superb lead vocals from Ben Ross make the difference as well, the array of approaches being convincingly servile, nervous, raging, or crooning romantic as need be, often times in the same song.



Ross’s singing provides a focal point through this album's sweetly distorted chord variations, apply a tangibly human expression to the constant grind of a hard rock tirelessly replicating the dynamics of a world that will not stop because you’re confused, angry, hurt, or even in love to the bone. Ross is the voice of a young man making sense of his life through whatever paces daily life can put him through. Down to it, Color You is credible mainstream rock, unpretentious, riveting, varied, packing a wallop. I am hoping their penchant to package themselves as deep thinkers pass. For rock and roll, whatever the pedigree, it’s best to keep it real than to make it profound.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Saturday, January 12, 2019

GIVE THEM SHELTER

Image result for THE ROLLING STONES
The Rolling Stones have many great songs in their catalog, but 'Gimme Shelter" is one that qualifies as a masterpiece. The stunning, foreboding weave of simple guitar lines at the outset, slow, cautious, stealthy, suggest two kinds of apprehension about the world outside the walls one lives in, both that of the stalker creeping up on a prey, and the stalked, shivering, rained on, seeking something to provide at least a moment's respite from the unpredictable, the nasty, the brutish possibilities of being alone. The thunder guitar lines, swooping bass and the short, simple, shank edge harmonica riff are then all around you, a house collapsing, a cliff falling into the sea, rockets bombing your home town, an earthquake. It is that crushing, smashing, lacerated feeling that the truth gas denied is about to enter and take center stage and proceed to uproot everything fastened down and not. Think of the feeling when you haven't enough money to pay the rent, when there is no more dope and the sickness is tearing you apart from the inside out, when a loved one dies, when you're confronted with someone with a bat with a nail through it, or a gun , or a knife. No solace, no quarter. The Stones dealt obsessively with life on the edge in their songs, inspired by a lifestyle they could afford in their off time , and anyone with a more than an glancing familiarity of the aftermath of having gone on an extended drug run, whether heroin, speed, cocaine, there is the phenomenon that the world has ceased to be anything else than a mere rumor of something that was attractive or worth fighting horrible wars to preserve order in. Not all of this was approached from the stance of panic or fear that is the spirit of "Gimme Shelter". "Moonlight Mile", a fragile, beautiful evocation of coming down from a needle-point, catches the half-conscious figure in mid-nod, addressing the drift he finds himself on as though it were a wonderfully calm and foreseen ascent to the next life, a transcendence of a sort. 

There are other roles that are played out in this theme of decadence, decline, and degradation, with the Stones, and Jagger especially, playing along with the age-old cliche of the romantic artist, the poet, the seer, pushing their senses to the limit to attain experience and to gain something of that fleeting, elusive knowledge that senses reveal only when they are placed drugged out duress. Most, though, wind up a wallow, a boast, a casual nod to the audience that it was either a put on or they survived the worse the drugs had to offer and walked out of the other side of the experience, ragged, battered, damaged, but alive to write more poems. "Gimme Shelter" differs, though,  because it really is one of the few songs where the voice doesn't sound like a well-constructed pose maintained with a professional distance from the subject. The ennui sounds not just real, but nearly fatal, Jagger plays the perfect role here, abandoning the poses, the personas, the macho -libertine man of destiny and expresses the naked fear that nothing quite suddenly and brutally makes the sense it used to; everything falls apart. There is the remarkable effect of the singer admitting that there is only the unknown forces of a world that have slid off the rails. Jagger's vocal and the lyrics sound like a man who is coming to the uncontested eventuality of his demise. Merry Clayton offers the defiant cry, a brilliant, rail-splitting wail that says that the worse of everything we can imagine is about to happen. She is the hard truth overshadowing Jagger's fatalistic admission. Mood, atmosphere, texture, a hook that comes in at the right time like a badly constructed car hitting every pothole on a troubled, abandoned road, this song remains foreboding, menacing, a song that continues to resonate and will always do so, I think, as long as we contain the imagination to devise our specialized means of insanity.

Friday, January 11, 2019

STRANGE STORM BRINGS THE FURY

Image result for strange storm darrin james band
STRANGE STORM--Darrin James Band
Strange Storm, the third album from the Detroit based Darrin James Band, is truth-telling of the bitterest sort, ten tracks naming the slights we do each other, intended and otherwise.  Following suit, Darrin James, principal songwriter and singer, growls, rasps, sneers and bellows through the trouble-minded lyrics. James, of course, hasn’t the market cornered in outrage, but he’s not one to wring hands and resign himself to regret and rumination. The album isn’t a mere scolding for the sins society commits against fellow citizens, but also a grand and roiling work out by an instrumental troupe that cuts a rapid and confident path through a heady number of approaches, be it traditional folk/protest, hard rock and polyrhythmic, through a grainy brand of fusion and wrenching excursions in dissonant free-jazz wailing. It’s refreshing, it’s bracing, it’s a welcome relief from the prepackaged reflexes that dominate the chatter in the major music media. These guys get your attention and don’t waste your time once they have it. The band is adroit, with mastery of varied grooves and rhythms. Generous chunks of hard rock guitar balance against the quick reflexes of funk and fusion-honed rhythm section underpin the James’ snarled ire. Hardly a droning list of the evils of wealth, power and status seeking; the songs are varied, the rhythms are sharply executed, venturing from more traditional folk protest style as in the opening “Walking in the Footsteps”, through the hammering downbeats and stuttering Meters-style funk of the title track. Suitably, it’s not just lyrics that characterize the outrage, but also the music, especially in two instrumental tracks, “Downdrafts Cold Fronts” and “Covert Mission Anthem”. With nods to P-Funk, Zappa’s more crowded orchestrations and the anguished improvisations of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, this a swerving ride between overlapping modes and moods, subdued textures and light embellishments morphing into angular, off-center progressions, with sharp guitar riffs and arguing horn and reed solos traipsing through the coarse density. The abrasive layering of trumpet and sax effectively match James’ excoriations. Strange Storm has impressive brilliance in their harnessing anger and railing against injustice.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Ted Burke LIKE IT OR NOT: Lester Bangs is Still Dead

Ted Burke LIKE IT OR NOT: Lester Bangs is Still Dead: The Weeklings - Salon.com : There is nothing more pleasurable than getting hot and nasty and railing against the elements of pop culture t...

Saturday, January 5, 2019

KICK OUT THE CLAMS

There was a gasping blowhard on a blog who in the course of a debate as to which country, America or Britain, had produced the largest number of Great Rock Bands uttered these phrases that still have me gritting my teeth these seven years later, formulating a ready response: American bands with VERY few exceptions SUCK! The best I could come up was this: Do you mean all American bands, ever, from any time in rock and roll history? You don’t believe that since American bands and solo artists are the architects of rock and roll, and that without them, the British bands you love would not exist, at least not in the form that makes you go gaga and loopy, like and roll ought to do. I refuse to believe that any art that I love stems from, or was influenced or made possible by anything that ‘sucks. Since American bands influenced a good many great British bands, American bands, by and large does not suck. Great musicians tend to be influenced by other great musicians. I think you understand that. For the track record in the post-British invasion phase, I insist that it’s about even, America ahead by a neck. But here, we can have a reasonable disagreement.

The fact of the matter is that the history of British rock and roll is a reworking of traditions that are not native to your shores. You've produced great music and extensions of established styles, but rock and rolls' bleeding edge comes from America, finally: that seems to be the only advantage to being as gummed-up as we are--there is a tension in the musical culture that remains constant and vital that you Brits, historically, have only refined into an aesthetically arguable style. Britain has gotten all the credit for punk rock, and even that’s not their own invention: The MC-5, Iggy and the Stooges, The Velvet Underground and the New York Dolls were playing years before Malcolm McLaren placed his want-ad for future Sex Pistols. But what of it all? It goes back and forth.Every note that gets played comes back to us changed, modified, altered to suit another players' purpose relevant to his experience.The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks crushes one’s skull and destroys one’s notions of pop decorum just fine, but it does sound like Kick Out the Jams sixteen years later. The psychodrama tic of marginal bands who are locked out of the star-making machinery is, like it or not, is a long and rich tradition in America with the likes of Alice Cooper, another Detroit boy who sold several million albums with the proto-grunge rock sometime before the Pistols had half a wit about themselves. One cannot take black music from the equation; to do so is racist and foul and evidence of bed wetting. Rock and roll is black music at its heart and base, and we'd be dishonest to exclude the matter. It does, after all, come from Chuck Berry. Ask Keith Richard. Chrissie Hynde still sounds American to me, and still sounds like Akron, Ohio. Iggy Pop and Ted Nugent hail from the Detroit/Ann Arbor area, and the geographic/temporal coincidences certainly didn't cause either to sound like the other. In turn, why should Hynde sound like Devo? Any hoot, she kicks it major ways, she is awesome, a goddess. And obnoxious? I only must buy her records, not buy her dinner.

For BB King and other blues artists, it’s still another case of Brits admitting that the music they're making is based on someone else’s work. We cannot seem to get around that. Eldridge Cleaver is as fallible a cultural critic as anyone you can name, and his comment about the Beatles was intended to appeal to white radicals who were buying his books. It was nice for him to assure his audience that he wasn't a complete monster: say something nice about something they love. Proper credit for a white man making black music acceptable to white teens, though, properly goes to Elvis Presley. Anyone of our blessed Brits would cite the El as their first exposure to black music, along with millions of white American teens, was through him. The Beatles essentially were needed links in an ongoing chain of influences. But Elvis was the ground breaker. Period.

Any other statement is not accurate, Eldridge Cleaver to the contrary.


Thursday, January 3, 2019

EAST COUNTY ROCKS

Related image "Tilman Thomas were a bunch of guys trying for some odd hard rock, Black Sabbath /AliceCooperr fusion and, from what I remember, did their own shows from a San Diego east country VFW hall. they had original tunes, none of them memorable, all-riff and glutted with pointless and repetitive chord changes that sounded like a garage band of average amateur skill levels trying to add the illusion of prog-rock density to their flat-line barrage. they were not horrible musicians--some showed chops, others did what they could--they were just persistently and insistently mediocre, the kind of aggravating experience when you see a performers who are convinced of their genius. The lead singer was a fellow named Rico X, who wore blouses that looked like they were bought while drunk in an consignment show. he had long curly hair, was flamboyant the way only off key sociopaths can manage, and a voice that was yet another karaoke imitation of Ian Gillian's degendered falsetto. the band's tagline was "mindless rock and roll".it was good to see at least one band live up to a promise they made. the hall was one of those large rooms you grew up in watching your parents and friends get drunk in, on the 4th of July especially. there was a low rise stage, less impressive than the ones that were standard issue in high school gymnasiums all over the country, amps, lighting and PA were abstract, post-cubist renditions of electricity being put to use to underscore a forthcoming storm of mung with sparks and static. the crowd dug it the most, though, everyone dressed up in some variation of groupie baby doll eleganza or long haired biker trash self loathing. it was a wonderful scene"


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

FOWLEY, KIM

Rock and roll Svengali Kim Fowley died a number of years ago. I think he's still dead.Robert Christgau said it back in 1969, reviewing his album "OUTRAGEOUS":
 "....Fowley is such a gargantuan shuck that he ought to be preserved in a time capsule. .." 
That line has stuck with me and characterized Fowley for decades and now it comes full circle where we have an opportunity examine how the Sixties counterculture produced marginal sorts who were happy to have a niche somewhere in the music greatness others and those like Charlie Manson who wanted to change to change the world into a larger version of their insane selves. It was a crap shoot either way, and lucky for us Fowley wasn't as crazy as he pretended to be. It's always been my impression that Kim Fowley preferred you spoke about him in the past tense when you were in his presence, the closest and quickest thing he can have to his desire was to eavesdrop on his own funeral. Only a fool too fast of tongue of slow to truth would argue that Fowley didn't have some kind of observable genius in the happenstance of his life. He was an Ezra Pond sort his era, someone with a smattering of talent themselves who had a more acute instinct for the large talent of others . It can be a tedious thing to hash through again, but it bears repeating that Fowley's greatest masterpiece was creating a string of performance-oriented personas, all of the extreme, gaudy, tacky, neurotic and, rather desperate in their attempts to equal the art being produced by artists he was attracted too. Fowley was someone who,like thousands of others at the time, were trying to berserk themselves into genius who, despite hard work and an unblinking commitment to the mask he was wearing,never convinced anyone that there was anything there but an egocentricity that was oddly ingratiating Fowley, I suspect, knew that we were onto his game from the get-go and let it remain as such. Fowley was someone who wanted to leave his mark on history and didn't quite much care what damage to his reputation he suffered in doing so. It wasn't damage at, I think he'd have explained to us, since this was a reputation he was reputation he was creating in place of one that didn't exist in the first place. What he wanted was to be known, to be creative, to be a part  of the throng at the higher creative plain. He wanted to leave his mark on history, not change it, not destroy it, not change to course of things to come. His desire was to be in the perennial now of whatever was intense at the musical time and space and to have a sufficient version of his cover story to accompany. He was a man who lived his life in the present tense.What is remarkable is that he remained in the game as long as he did. Fowley was a fake, which was the source of authenticity. He decided to "act as if..." and never stopped acting.I regard Fowley's whole life as being something like Kafka's Hunger Artist; the man who refuses to eat draws a crowed around him and it's that artist's job to keep the crowd distracted while maintaining his cover. Fowley kept the mask on but remained an approachable anomaly. No easy thing to do.



NAMES AGAINST DAD

Truthfully, I had to walk away from a conversation in late December that rock and roll are was dead as a boot; Fifty and-Sixty-somethings like myself have the feeling that last bit of authenticity ended as we came into our late twenties and had replaced avocations with careers. I’m just tired of anyone declaring whole art forms as “deceased” merely because they’ve gotten older; rock and roll seems healthy to me, as it goes, and however large a segment of the marketplace it holds, those who play it and those who listen to it, young and not so young, think the music is alive and, well, kicking ass. 

The complaints come down to this, The Fall from Grace; the Garden of Eden was so much nicer before the corporate snakes moved in and loused it up for everyone. Regardless of musical terms and pseudo terms that are tossed about like throw rugs over a lumpy assertion is the kind of junior-college cafeteria table thumping that is demonstrably empty of content. Reading any good history of rock and roll music will have the music develop alongside the growth of an industry that started recording and distributing increasingly diverse kinds of music in order to widen market shares. The hand of the businessman, the soul of the capitalist machine has always been in and around the heart of rock and roll: every great rock and roll genius, every jazz master, each blues innovator has the basic human desire to get paid. 

Suffice to say that some we see as suffering poets whose travails avail them of images that deepen our sense of shared humanity see themselves still as human beings who require the means to pay for their needs and finance their wants, like the rest of us. There has always been a marketplace where the music is played, heard, bought and sold--and like everything in these last months, the marketplace has changed, become bigger, more diffuse with new music, and new technologies. Some of us are vaguely, and snottily mournful for an era when only the music mattered, and something inside me pines for that innocence as well, but innocence is the same currency as naïveté, and consciously arguing that the way I formerly perceived the world was the way it actually worked would be an exorcize in ignorance, as in the willful choice to ignore available facts that are contrary to a paradigm that's sinking into its loosely packed foundation. 

Again, it's hard to discern the line naysayers want to peruse, other than prove that he's an amateur Mencken, a pundit without a platform, sans portfolio. It's my suspicion that for the typical young music listener now, this is the Eden they expect never to end, which means that it’s the best time in the world for rock and roll for some mass of folks out there.

SOME FINE CORYELL JAZZ

Image result for tricycles larry coryellIt's been instructive to revisit jazz guitarist Larry Coryell after a decade or in other neighborhoods. A pioneer of jazz-fusion, this musician is, at his best, wildly inventive, cranky, blistering and rapid fire, someone akin to Jeff Beck in ways of attacking an improvisation from unexpected angles of attack. Like Beck as well, his body of work is erratic, and one wonders if Coryell might have become stuck on the fence sometime in mid-career, performing an unsatisfying amalgam of mainstream bop standards, pop-jazz, and thud - worthy, unmotivated funk and rock blends. Fortunately, age and good sense have toughened the guitarist's technique; his album Tricycles and the more recent Earthquake at the Avalon, are both superlative examples of this man's ability to display a pristine delicacy on ballads, fleet-fingered flurries on the accelerated compositions, and a hard-nosed edge on the blues. Of the two albums, Tricycles gets the higher marks, as Coryell has a sweet trio in bassist Mark Egan and drummer Paul Wertico bring off a varied set of styles with the ease of a unit that knows the strengths and nuances of each other's respective approaches. Coryell's guitar fairly bristles and sparkles through his rich chord voicings and pristine essays, with Egan and Wertico upping the rhythmic ante and lowering it again as the major and minor turns of the songs change the mood. There is a richness in the performance that suggests a larger group. Recommended.