TWIN-HOUSE - 1978
Philip Catherine : acoustic guitars
Larry Coryell : acoustic guitars
It was Claude Nobs, organiser of the Montreux Jazz Festival, who first had the idea of teaming Larry Coryell with Philip Catherine as a duo, when both guitarists were appearing at the Festival a couple of years back. At the Berlin Jazz Days event in November last year the Swiss pianist and promoter George Gruntz was able to bringthe two guitarists together again. Catherine took the stage during a set by the Eleventh House and he and Coryell performed three numbers.
The immediate rapport and mutual understanding, and this creative compatibility made a big impression on Siegfried Loch, a long-time jazz enthusiast and record producer who was in the audience. Thus the idea for this album was born - and since Loch also happens to be the managing director of the WEA company in Hamburg, translating the idea into reality did not present too many problems.
Both guitarists have had a wide range of experience, both have been heavily involved in electric rock music and both have found themselves increasingly attracted by the sinuous subtlety and mellow honesty of the acoustic guitar.
CORYELL, from Texas, who first came to prominence with the Gary Burton Quartet in 1967, has been described by Whitney Balliett as "the most inventive and original guitarist since Charlie Christian. "He was inspired in his formative years by CHET ATKINS and CHUCK BERRY and later by BARNEY KESSEL, WES MONTGOMERY and JOE PASS. Last year in a Down Beat interview, Coryell announced his intention to make "acoustic, low-key, more jazz-oriented, nontrendy music". Certainly, he is no stranger to the guitar duo set-up because he has often worked in tandem with Steve Khan.
PHILIP CATHERINE, from Brussels, has long been a major figure on the European scene and is endowed with a technique, imagination and versatility which enable him to feel just as much at home with FOCUS as with PETER HERBOLZHEIMER'S Rhythm Combination & Brass and with JOACHIM KÜHN on the Atlantic album "Springfever" ATL 50280. Both guitarists draw their influences from wide range of sources and share profound admiration for Charlie Christian as well as Jimi Hendrix, for Django Reinhardt as well as George Benson. So while their backgrounds are vastly different, their cultural heritage disparate, their consummate feel for improvised, rhythmic music unites them so positively, so rewardingly, that it is hard to believe that this recording date was only their third session together. They had only 12 hours to complete the album and most of the tracks required only one or two takes.
Larry Coryell's "Ms. Julie" opens the set and is one of the three tracks on the album which makes use of overdubbing. There are three sections to the theme - an opening passage of harmonized 16 notes, then a chorded sequence with an interlude of arpeggios. Coryell on the left channel, borrowed Catherine's 12-string guitar to fill out the bass on this piece, and his solo, which follows Catherine's, is overdubbed on to his own accompaniment. For this tune the 12-string guitar was tuned in fourths and fifths instead of unison and octaves -EA,BE,GD,DA,AE and EB (instead of EE,BB,GG, DD, AA and EE).
"Home Comings", written by Catherine and featured on his 1975 Atlantic album, "Guitars", is a wistful, romantic A minor theme and has the composer stating the melody in single notes, against Coryell's mellow arpeggios. Then the roles are reversed and Coryell leads in with some bluesy, smeared notes and contributes a deftly articulated solo.
"Airpower" is another Catherine tune which he has played with violinist Zbigniew Seifert but which has not been recorded before. "This piece", Philip recalls, was a little hectic because we had very little time to rehearse." Catherine plays the very busy theme on the specially-tuned 12-string while Coryell fills in backing chord and bass notes. Then follows a fleet single-note solo by Coryell against a dence background of Catherine's continuous triplet chords.
The first side concludes with yet another Catherine original, "Twin House", a piece which he developed while he was with Focus. Catherine plays a written bass line while Coryell extemporises a single-note solo which has a strong country blues feel - an interesting and totally compatible contrast to Catherine's more funky, rock-oriented approach. There is an unplanned (1 suspect) ending which is typical of this kind of informal session as both men seek to have the last word but end up making a smoothly unified diminuendo finish. It is the sort of moment in collectively improvised music that is invariably followed by spontaneous laughter - the laughter that comes to musicians when, almost inadvertently, they achieve a felicitous resolution of their musical ideas.
Keith Jarrett's "Mortgage On Your Soul" opens with the two guitarists playing the bass line, a repeated two-bar figure, in unison while Coryell, overdubbed, delineates the melody and takes the first solo. Catherine follows and then the short piece is taken out as both men improvise over the bass figure. "Gloryell" was written specially for Larry by Jimmy Webb and it is a beautifully wrought piece. Coryell plays the melody in the opening section against Catherine's arpeggios. Then, after a series of rich chords, Catherine takes the lead, creating simple but moving single-note patterns. Then, in the third section, Catherine returns to an accompanying role, hinting for a while at a bossa-nova rhythm, while Coryell maintains the sensitive mood with some delicate lines and the occasional overdubbed adornment.
"Nuages", a number suggested by Catherine, testifies to both musicians admiration for the immortal Django. Catherine states the melody against Coryell's warm, chordal accompaniment. Then Coryell solos, producing some prodigious 16th note runs which are very much in the Reinhardt tradition. Both men improvise in the last chorus, but the ending is reached somewhat prematurely, because Catherine unintentionally omits bars 25 to 28. Notice, however, how quickly Coryell picks up the mistake and adjusts to it.
The session closes with another Catherine original, "Twice A Week", which was written three or four years ago and which he "rediscovered" for this date. It features some of Catherine's best playing on the album (and that's his opinion,too). He solos first, then the lead is picked up by Coryell and finally the two guitarists improvise together.
It is refreshing after the barrage of electronic and synthesized sound that has characterized the last decade of contemporary music, to hear two brilliant, mutually attuned musicians once again exploring and exploiting the abundant resources of the acoustic guitar, surely one of the most ravishing and exhilarating instruments in music. -
Editorial Director, Jazz Journal International.