Larry Coryell / Steve Marcus – The Count’s Jam Band: Reunion

The Count’s Jam Band: Reunion
Larry Coryell / Steve Marcus
(Tone Center – 2001)
by John Barrett

In the ‘Sixties, Larry Coryell was a journalism student on the West Coast – on a whim he dropped everything, headed to New York, and tried his fortune as a guitarist. There he met Steve “The Count” Marcus, who hired him for his group The Count’s Rock Band. (Larry returned the favor: The Eleventh House, sometimes called “the first fusion group”, had Marcus as a founding member.) Back together after 30 years, their improvisatory energy is heard in full force.

“Scotland” was done by The Eleventh House as a folk piece; here it’s hyperactive, with slithering strings and whooping sax. Circular themes (like those of Frank Zappa) are met by slashing drums (Journey’s Steve Smith) and restless energy. “Reunion” begins with Kai Eckhardt, rumbling the bass with wiry, guitar-like notes. Larry adds his strum, the drums bear down – and Marcus cries, in mellow tone with hints of worry. Calm amidst the fury, Steve wanders up high; Larry adds a harsh jangle, and Steve starts screaming. “Rhapsody & Blues” is a bop variation on a theme you can recognize, and “Pedals” is a romp through the rain – active but somber. Describing it is hard, but enjoyment is easy.

All through this outing, Larry is restrained – he’ll sometimes overwhelm you in effects, but not here. That may be due to Marcus, whose style is free yet disciplined. His best moment comes in “Foreplay”: a series of circles, each one moving closer to Coltrane. Coryell’s turn is a dose of ‘Sixties rock. Likewise, “Tomorrow Never Knows”: Ringo’s drum riff is missed, replaced by Larry’s sonic crunch. (For a moment, Eckhardt quotes “Hey Bulldog”.) This is a tad long, but it’s decent. There’s beautiful stillness to “Ballad for Guitar and Soprano” – and a potent blast on “Jammin’ with The Count”. Marcus squeals, Eckhardt dips down … and the ‘Sixties live forever. It’s heavy, man.