Larry Coryell, Nate Najar, John Lamb & Jim Carlton: Jazz Brilliance

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There is a special program Tuesday, April 5th, for jazz guitar fans and aficionados at The Palladium in St. Petersburg. There are four great reasons to attend this 7:30 show.

Reason number one: jazz guitar virtuoso Larry Coryell is the headliner for this show. Reasons two and three: special guest fingerstyle guitarist Nate Najar will open the show, performing with former Duke Ellington bassist John Lamb. Reason number four: your master of ceremonies is the well-known music journalist and author Jim Carlton.

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Larry Coryell, now a resident of Orlando, jump-started his career when he moved to New York in 1965 to replace Gabor Szabo in Chico Hamilton’s band. The song “Larry of Arabia” from The Dealer is an excellent introduction. He also formed the very first jazz-rock band with Jim Pepper and Bob Moses called The Free Spirits in 1966. He left that band to play with Gary Burton in 1967-68.

He was in the vanguard of the jazz-fusion scene that emerged in the early ‘70s (and his first albums were on the Vanguard label!), especially his album Spaces with John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham, Miroslav Vitous and Chick Corea (1970). Coryell successfully fused rock, jazz and eastern influences, as evidenced by his album Barefoot Boy.

As his career took off, Coryell became adept at many styles: fusion, free jazz, straight-ahead jazz, and wonderful acoustic music with classical influences. His fusion band The Eleventh House was one of the titans in the mid-‘70s with Alphonse Mouzon, Mike Mandel, Randy Brecker, Mike Lawrence, John Lee and others.

The Eleventh House

The Eleventh House

In addition to many records in traditional jazz trio settings, Coryell often paired with guitar players and other musicians for some beautiful recordings. A very incomplete list would include Philip Catherine, Emily Remler, John Scofield, Joe Beck, Stephane Grappelli, Kenny Drew, Jr., Michael Urbaniak, and Buster Williams. He also made a beautiful album with members of Oregon.

Beginning in 1981, he began releasing classical interpretations, including composers Ravel, Rimsky-Korsakov, and DeBussy. Ever since the ‘70s, Larry has been a fixture on the U.S. and European jazz scenes and has appeared on the world’s most renowned stages as a solo act, with other notable jazz greats and more recently with Europe’s finest symphony orchestras performing his own classical compositions.

In addition to an output of more than 100 recordings, Coryell has also performed with Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix and hundreds and hundreds of others. He has also published several books of his own including an autobiography: Improvising – My Life in Music. Find much more information on his official website

Larry Coryell was kind enough to do a phone interview Sunday on WMNF’s The Colors of Jazz. After the show at The Palladium, “what we call a one-off,” he will make his way to Europe for a series of performances. He mentioned that he has several days off while there. “I’m going to hook up with a couple of guys that I know over there, and we’re going to take a look at some charts I wrote based on the music of Stravinsky and see if we can make sense of it. If it doesn’t sound like jazz, I’m going to drop it, because I’m not a classical musician.” Many people would disagree.

Coryell said he is working on a follow-up to Barefoot Boy. “I plan to use a tenor and soprano player here in Orlando, Dan Jordan. He’s just a great player.” Due out in August is a brand new Eleventh House record featuring Randy Brecker, John Lee and Alphonse Mouzon, all of whom played in various incarnations of the band. “Mike Mandel (original keyboard player) has been in poor health, although he is getting better, so my youngest son (Julian) will fill in the role of the keyboard player. He has five solos on the record, and they’re killing. I think this is the best jazz record ever made.” Hurry up, August!

His program Tuesday will likely include music by “Gershwin, Ravel, Ellington, Strayhorn,” and more. He will enjoy the acoustics of The Palladium. “You know the best hall I ever played in in America is Ruth Eckerd Hall.” That’s high praise, well deserved.

An accomplished guitarist-composer and Charlie Byrd devotee, nylon string fingerstyle player Nate Najar has distinguished himself as a talent worthy of recognition with his impressive output over the past ten years. Najar is one of the few contemporary musicians playing jazz on the classical guitar. His Candid Records release Blues For Night People (The Nate Najar Trio) remembers Charlie Byrd, and that introduced him to the international stage, including performances at London’s Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club and the 2013 London Jazz Festival. And Najar recently played a concert at Lincoln Center. Najar will be accompanied by the celebrated jazz bassist John Lamb, one of the godfathers of the Tampa Bay area music scene. His tenure with the Duke Ellington orchestra speaks for itself. More information at Najar is available on his official website.  


Master of Ceremonies for the evening is Jim Carlton, a noted music journalist and columnist for Vintage Guitar Magazine, The Fretboard Journal, Just Jazz Guitar and many others. In addition, he’s written special material for such performers as the Smothers Brothers, Pat Paulsen, Gallagher, Joan Rivers, Jim Stafford, Mason Williams and Garry Shandling. His work has appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Arsenio Hall Show and Late Night with David Letterman. Read more on his official website.

Jim Carlton

Jim Carlton

Carlton could do an entire evening without musical accompaniment. His wonderful stories and observations about jazz, guitars, guitarists, jazz guitarists and great friends could fill the entire program. He had much to share in a radio interview Sunday evening on WMNF’s The Colors of Jazz. He said he “grew up in the business,” as his father was a studio guitarist who worked regularly in Chicago. “I was, in essence, to the manner born.”

“I became aware of Larry Coryell in ’63-’64. Larry has a great sense of humor, so we connected on that level right away. He is an utterly brilliant guitarist and just a splendid guy. It has been a rewarding and fruitful friendship.”

Carlton’s writing actually began with liner notes, the first of which was for Another Side of This Life: The Lost Recordings of Gram Parsons. Carlton was friends with Parsons, Jim Stafford, and Roland Kent LaVoie (you know him as Lobo) back when those three had a band called The Legends (or The Rumours?). Since then, Carlton has written liner notes for more than 50 records.

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Carlton published Conversations With Great Jazz and Studio Guitarists, a compendium of in-depth interviews with 22 of the world’s greatest jazz guitarists, in 2009. He is working an another volume that will include Coryell. In Just Jazz Guitars, “I write a column called ‘What I Learned from a Master,’ where I interview great players and identify what they learned from their mentors.” I have a monthly column in Vintage Guitars (something of a misnomer of a title), and I have been writing about ‘Guitars of the Hard Rock.’ There is a vault, a legitimate vault (at the Hard Rock in Orlando) with more than 80,000 pieces of memorabilia. This month I’m writing about the Hard Rock guitar techs and more.”

So Tuesday’s show should be a wonderful combination of outstanding music and scintillating discussion.

Your mission: The Palladium. 7:30.


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