The opening set by Larry Coryell's Eleventh House Reunion Band at Blues Alley Saturday wasn't entirely devoted to the jazz-rock fusion popularized by the original group a generation ago.
Midway through the performance, Coryell picked up his acoustic guitar and paid touching tribute to his late friend and fellow guitarist Charlie Byrd with an arrangement of "One Note Samba" that recalled Byrd's mastery of Brazilian jazz and his pivotal association with saxophonist Stan Getz. Coryell also saluted the late guitarist Lenny Breau, albeit indirectly, with a solo acoustic guitar performance of "Transparency" that sparkled with Breau-like artificial harmonics.
The show even opened in surprising fashion with a cool reprise of Milt Jackson's "Bags' Groove"--surprising for a fusion band reunion, since the rendition was soulfully relaxed and illustrated the quartet's affinity for deeply rooted blues expression. But then, this was only a partial reunion, since Coryell and veteran drummer Alphonse Mouzon were playing with a pair of new recruits: alto saxophonist Donald Harrison and six-string bassist Bill Foster.
The show's remaining tunes were more in keeping with the seminal fusion band's reputation. "Cover Girl," a bit of exultant funk, was largely distinguished by Coryell's extended chords and Harrison's hard-nosed alto, while "Spaces Revisited" allowed Foster and Mouzon to stretch out. Despite the rhythm section's tendency to overpower its band mates, Coryell and Harrison made for an inspired front line, balancing technique, taste and emotion with a consistency rarely heard in fusion jazz circles.--Mike Joyce
Guy Clark has either been drunk a lot, been dumped a lot and seen a mess of trains in his life, or he's a heck of a liar.
At the Birchmere on Friday, Clark kept the crowd charmed with a show that was long on storytelling and short on structure. He started with several cuts from his new CD, "Cold Dog Soup," but when his memory of his back catalogue began failing ("My wife says I can hide my own Easter eggs now," Clark confessed), he accepted requests that came to the stage on cocktail napkins from waitresses or were shouted from the back of the room. Anything Clark could persuade picking partner Verlon Thompson to strum was played--they even worked the parts to "Hangin' Your Life on the Wall," from the CD "Dublin Blues," as they went along. After finding out that another storyteller, Tom Paxton, was in the house, Clark invited him onstage and let Paxton perform one of his own, "Bottle of Wine."
The 58-year-old Clark always has been less a singer than a rustic rapper. He describes his boyhood hometown of Monahans, Tex., as sitting "somewhere between Pecos and nowhere." And while years and whiskey have whittled away his range, Clark's South Plains drawl still adds profundity to simple, slice-of-life lines like "I wouldn't trade a tree for how I feel right now," or "She ain't goin' nowhere, she's just leavin.' " Clark's youth also spawned "Desperadoes Waiting For a Train," a chronicle of his relationship with a dying old man from Monahans that can touch anybody who grew up anywhere. Long after it was clear Clark was played out, the fans continued sending him requests. "Listen, I'm playing one more, then everybody's going home!" he finally said after two hours onstage, annoyed in the best possible way.
Judging by the last ovation of the evening, most of the fans wouldn't have traded a tree for how they felt right then.
Gorky's Zygotic Mynci
For the group's small cadre of local fans, the set that Gorky's Zygotic Mynci played at the 9:30 club Friday was a charmer. Still, it seemed a little too subdued to win many converts among the club's other patrons, most of whom were there to see Luna, the evening's headliner.
The Welsh quintet was being true to its latest CD, "Spanish Dance Troupe," the quietest of its albums (and only the second of six to be released in its entirety in the United States). The disc emphasizes gentle tunes that draw on medieval Celtic ballads, late-'60s British psychedelic folk-rock and American country music. Unlike many eclectic rock bands that attempt to be delicate, Gorky's was up to the challenge of performing such music live; its renderings of ethereal songs like "Faraway Eyes" and "She Lives on a Mountain" were lovely.
Seldom in evidence, however, were the playful juxtapositions of the group's earlier work. Some tunes featured energetic passages, but "Poodle Rockin' " was the only exuberant number, while "Patio Song" was the only one in which singer-keyboardist Euros Childs alternated between English and Welsh, once a common gambit in the band's material. Perhaps Gorky's was trying to keep things simple for American audiences unfamiliar with its music, but the resulting set didn't offer a full accounting of the group's intrepidly wide-ranging style.