Friday, February 9, 2007

THIS ALL-STAR fusion jazz trio's sophomore release has plenty of what listeners have come to expect from guitarist Larry Coryell, bassist Victor Bailey and drummer Lenny White over the years in various settings. Hand-in-glove interplay, spacious arrangements that borrow freely from blues, rock, jazz and funk grooves, shining examples of Coryell's acoustic guitar balladry and romantic lyricism -- it's all here. There's even an oddly swinging, funk-charged cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression" that helps place Coryell's long and multifaceted career in perspective.

Midway through the album, though, comes a big surprise. While saluting Thelonious Monk with a slithering take on "Misterioso," Coryell plays slide guitar. In the CD liner notes, Coryell is quoted as saying the slide work was inspired by Bonnie Raitt and Sonny Sharrock, which explains the arrangement's blues-to-beyond contours, but fans of Jeff Beck may view this track in another light since it sometimes recalls the British guitarist's similarly languid (albeit non-slide) take on Charles Mingus's "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat."

Recorded live at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in New York, CBW often projects a freewheeling spirit, and although some of the tunes amount to little more than an excuse to jam, each member of the trio contributes a ballad that inspires a shimmering, subtly arranged performance: In fact, for all the firepower evident here, Bailey's "Joyce's Favorite," White's "Dedication" and Coryell's "Jake's Lullaby" clearly rank among the album's brightest moments, right up there with the Monk and Hendrix homages.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Friday through Sunday at Blues Alley.

Listen to an audio clip of CBW

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