"I just like to do a lot of different things," says guitarist Larry Coryell. "I like a lot of different kinds of music and always have. A long time ago someone told me never to limit myself, even though I would always come from a jazz foundation, to keep doing different stuff, not only for my own benefit but the benefit of the listener. And I try to do that as well as I possibly can."
Indeed, the jazz idiom boasts few players who have spread themselves across the musical horizon as widely as Coryell.
As a teen-ager in Seattle in the late '50s, he played in a rock 'n' roll group. In New York in the '60s, he played in the combos of drummer Chico Hamilton and vibraphonist Gary Burton.
In 1973, Coryell formed the Eleventh House, an early jazz-rock fusion group. More recent work has included duo tours with other guitarists, combo work with French pianist Claude Bolling and a working jazz quartet of his own.
All of which adds up to a versatility that few jazz players of any period can match.
At 8 tonight Coryell will be at the Barns at Wolf Trap in an altogether different project. It's a trio called Guitarjam, with Laurindo Almeida, the eclectic Brazilian guitarist who plays everything from Bach to bossa nova to bop, and Sharon Isbin, one of the few internationally successful female solo classical guitarists, a virtuoso at 26.
"I've always been involved in one kind of fusion or another," says Coryell, explaining this latest venture, "and I've really been inspired by listening to Brazilian, flamenco and classically oriented guitarists doing things in ensemble and I really like it. It's a healthy departure from the straight-ahead jazz that I've been doing of late."
As to how the three-generation trio of disparate backgrounds operates, Coryell explains: "It's mainly a classical gig, where for me the emphasis is on discipline rather than improvisation, playing my parts properly and integrating with the group.
"Still, the program does include some improvisation," Coryell hastens to point out. "I take a classical theme and improvise on it and Laurindo and I will do some Brazilian stuff, like straight-ahead bossa nova, and we'll both improvise there. The only one who doesn't improvise is Sharon, of course."
Isaac Albe'niz, Claude Debussy, Manuel de Falla and Maurice Ravel are composers given readings by the group in various combinations. The program also utilizes originals, including Coryell's "P.S.P. (Peppy Spanish Piece) No. 1" and Almeida's "Brazilliance."
"The way I work it seems to be that more emotion gets transferred through the acoustic guitar," says Coryell, who was known to fire up on electricity with the best of them in his time, but plays six- and 12-string acoustic models when concertizing with Almeida and Isbin.
"It just happened to work out that way, but I know a lot of electric jazz guitar players who can get that same sensuality from their traditional electric guitar cum amplifier."