‘Jazz Will Live And Live And Live’
Guitarist Larry Coryell is coming to the Maui Jazz & Blues Festival, and we got to talk with him
Jazz has a mind of its own. The same song means something different to everyone who hears it. When I ask people about jazz, they often react with passionate love or clear disdain.
But I feel like you haven’t really experienced jazz it until you see it live, and there’s no better way to do that than by attending the Maui Jazz and Blues Festival. Now in its sixth year, the festival is the county’s preeminent jazz experience. Through the years, festival founder Ken Martinez-Burgmaier has become a kind of curator of my jazz and blues experiences.
“Jazz Alley TV is the longest running jazz, blues and world music TV series in the world, It’s been on for 25 years,” says Martinez-Burgmaier. “I’ve travelled to over 40 countries, filming music festivals for my show and I’ve gotten to know a lot of musicians on my travels over the last 25 years. My TV show airs in 80 countries and I’ve made relationships with musicians all over the planet. It’s cultivated into bringing them to the South Pacific to share their talents with our community.”
Martinez-Burgmaier’s Jazz Alley TV airs every Saturday at 9pm on KIKU TV. He also partners with KITV 4 ABC and they air many of his world premieres. The show also has viewers all over the world because it airs on the Voice of America network.
“The Jazz Alley TV series has been incredible for me,” he says. “I have won the Billboard Music Awards twice for TV Series, and I have Emmy award winning production on this show as well. This is my home, and after seeing these wonderful music festivals all over the world, I realized we just don’t have anything like it. That’s why I create these music festivals with the musicians.”
For additional information on the festival, go to Mauijazzandbluesfestival.com.
Larry Coryell is one of the musicians Martinez-Burgmaier is bringing out for this year’s festival. My first experience listening to Coryell was on YouTube, where the digital world has amassed videos of the last 60 years of his legendary fusion style, as well as a smattering of jazz guitar lessons, interviews and advice to upcoming musicians. I caught a bit of precious time with Coryell between his filming a video and booking appearances all over the world. He says he’s excited about coming to Maui and is looking forward to sharing his jazz soul with paradise.
MAUITIME: You’ve been releasing albums pretty steadily for the last five decades. Do you have any favorite albums in your discography?
LARRY CORYELL: Among my favorites that I’ve done over the years are Spaces and Private Concert. The former was with John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Billy Cobham, etc. and it sold over 250,000 copies. The latter is a more intimate affair–just guitar. I like the sound. I was using a guitar from Maui’s own luthier genius, Steve Grimes.
MT: Where did the inspiration come from for your most recent album?
LC: It was a joy to make Barefoot Man: Sanpaku. When I was in Indonesia earlier this year I met an old friend, drummer Lee Pearson, and we did some jamming. It was good, so I decided to fly him to Orlando on his days off with Chris Botti and we did the record in two days. I also had John Lee (Eleventh House) on bass, the wonderful pianist Lynne Ariel and Orlando’s own Dan Jordan, a multi-reed virtuoso. I enjoyed composing for this project; we also added a composition by Dizzy Gillespie, “Manteca.” Anyway, I Iike the album. I hope others will like it as well.
MT: How do you keep up this level of energy and production? What’s the next album?
LC: Well, artists need to have energy in order to create, I believe. I enjoy what I do so if I get tired in the process it’s a “good” tired. As far as my next album, I think it will be another Eleventh House record–we made a “comeback” album in Florida in January but it hasn’t been released yet. But if we don’t do another Eleventh House project I would consider a simple guitar plus vocals collaboration, asking my wife Tracey (who is a pop singer) to sing jazz standards..
MT: What is Eleventh House?
LC: Eleventh House comes from astrology. Everyone’s chart has “houses” (aspects of one’s self) and the Eleventh House is the house of friends, hopes, dreams, aspirations, etc. Theoretically, a good foundation to achieve harmony within a band. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but we stay with the name because people identify with the great music we played in the ’70s.
MT: You created an opera. What was it about?
LC: War and Peace. I composed this in two weeks in 2010. It was inspired by my Japanese Buddhist mentor who recommended reading Tolstoy. The World Premier was in Slovenia in 2014.
MT: Were you making a statement about peace?
LC: Well, obviously, artists are pacifists mostly. None of my fellow jazzers are members of the NRA (that I know of). Realistically, thinking I can touch people’s’ hearts through my concept of “peace through music” is probably a stretch–the evil in the world is pretty well firmly ensconced. However, I think we have to try anyway. There’s always a chance that we can influence an individual to take a good self-look and undergo a positive change-of-heart. But as I said, it’s still a stretch. The ultimate moral of War and Peace is unconditional forgiveness, but how many of us have achieved that?
MT: Do you have any other operas planned?
LC: I have a new one, Anna Karenina coming up in May 2017. After Anna Karenina, my next opera will be Ulysses by James Joyce. Joyce is more like a jazz musician than most authors, in my opinion (he was an amateur jazz guitarist). Plus, Ulysses is tricky. Fortunately I obtained from one of his family members while in Ireland a “companion book” telling how to read the original, i.e., what he means (or may mean), who’s important in terms of characters and why. I wouldn’t go through the trouble except my initial musical ideas in the early going of the so-called “story” seem to be effective, so I will soldier on, slowly extracting content from the book and converting it to music. For me, Joyce is someone to be studied, rather than read.
MT: You’ve done a lot of guitar instruction on YouTube and writing books. Is teaching important to you?
LC: Teaching is important to me because I always learn more than the students; going back to basics and revisiting them at my current age is very revealing. I just did a new video a few days ago where I intentionally demonstrated only ideas relevant to the pupil’s personal creative process. In other words, I worked solely with blues–simple blues at first, and then more complex blues and the single note phrases that go with the more complex blues forms. In a more general sense, because of my years of experience, any book that I write that is not straight how-to instruction will be more of a “memoir” that talks about great artists from whom I have learned. Some of these artists are Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk. That’s only a few. I’ve also learned a lot (second-hand, of course) from DeBussey, Ravel, Tchaikovsky, Hindemith and Stravinsky.
MT: How has moving into a digital age of music affected you as a musician?
LC: What do you think? I mean, really, the traditional model of the music business from the ‘60s and ‘70s has been shattered. The nerds took over–trivializing the talent of gifted individuals–and now we can find anything on YouTube whether the artist or artists want to allow that or not. This is our reality–everybody has a smartphone. Everyone in the world. All I can think of is, based on history, things will change. They always change. Let’s hope that whatever change is around the bend will make it easier for younger musicians to establish themselves–get their records heard, and, ultimately get them on stages where they deserve to be playing.
MT: How did guitar become your instrument of choice?
LC: I switched from piano to guitar as a young man because I just couldn’t help myself. I was drawn to it–my karma. Interestingly, the more “guitar” I learned, the less “music” I was playing so I had to listen exclusively to pianists, horn players, drummers, etc. for a while to get new ideas. One of my early mentors, Gabor Szabo, said to me, “the music comes first, the instrument comes second.”
MT: What kinds of guitars do you prefer?
LC: Well, basically, it should not matter what model guitar one plays to a certain extent because one’s sound is really in one’s hands. I’ve also learned that I pretty much sound the same no matter what guitar I’m playing. That’s why I’m bringing a custom electric guitar by Cabell Fearn–an expatriate living in Germany–to Maui. It’s a kind of Telecaster look-alike. For acoustic, I’ve been playing a Martin the company made for me, but it’s too hard to play. What I think I will do is to bring my Steve Grimes model (he made it for me a while back), which is broken, and have him fix it. Hopefully it won’t be too difficult. Steve is the guy–he’s got an astonishing talent to build instruments that players who like to go beyond three chords want to play. I haven’t seem my friend Steve in a spell and I hope we can hook up in the short time available in Maui. Historically speaking, I also like my 1967 Gibson-Super-400. That guitar has a lot of soul now. It’s simply too fragile to travel.
MT: What do you see as the future of jazz?
LC: Ask one hundred people that and you get a hundred different answers. Jazz does have a future, and it’s good–just listen to what Javon and I are going to do when we get there. For me, it’s the chemistry among certain players that ultimately causes the good sparks to fly. Having said that, please remember that I’ve been lucky to work mostly with players who share the same “values” of the music–good time (rhythm), good harmonic structure, listen to what the band is doing. Also: don’t play anything too obvious (try and get lost if you can) and do it with soul plus swing your tail off. And please, please, play some melodies–jazz is esoteric but not impenetrable. Please realize that jazz will live and live and live because the good players will come along. It’s our shared positive universal karma that ensures that artistic magic. And that particular creative brilliance can be only be in America’s only original art form. Just look at the new players coming up–Christian McBride, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Lage Lund, Joey Alexander, Joey deFrancesco, Lee Pearson, Obert Davis. The list goes on. Nothin’ to worry about!
MT: What are some highlights on your upcoming Maui appearance?
LC: I’ve been to Maui before, don’t remember too much except that it was beautiful and I liked it. It’s been too long, and I’m eager to return. All I recall is that it’s a stunningly beautiful island and the people I met there were terrific. I truly hope I can connect with Steve Grimes. In terms of what I want the people to come away with vis-a-vis our performance; anytime I hook up with Javon Jackson, it’s a good hookup–they will walk away happy. Some of my friends are also performing, like Joe Louis Walker. Great guy, great artist. I hope to see him as well.
FESTIVAL SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
DUKE’S MAUI JAZZ AND BLUES FESTIVAL SNEAK PEEK KICK OFF – Thu. Sep 8. Jazz Alley TV Duo with Benny Uyetake and sax master Rock Hendricks with Grammy and Blues Music Hall of Fame Jazz and Blues winners Joe Louis Walker, Cajun Zydeco with Wayne Toups, Steve Riley and Wilson Savoy of Court Bouillon, Grammy nominated saxophonist Javon Jackson, New Orleans Grammy winner Delfeayo Marsalis on Trombone and trumpet player Gabriel Mark Hasselbach. 5:00pm. Duke’s Beach House, (130 Kai Malina Pkwy., Ka‘anapali); 808-662-2900; DukesMaui.com
HULA GRILL’S MAUI JAZZ AND BLUES FESTIVAL DINNER KICK OFF – Thu. Sep 8. Jazz Alley TV Trio with Paul Marchetti, Dave Graber and Brian Cuomo, sax player Rock Hendricks and Benny Uyetake with Blues Hall of Fame legend Joe Louis Walker, Grammy winners Cajun Zydeco with Wayne Toups, Steve Riley and Wilson Savoy of Court Bouillon, sax player Javon Jackson, Delfeayo Marsalis and Gabriel Mark Hasselbach. 6:00pm. Hula Grill, (2435 Ka‘anapali Pkwy.); 808-667-6636; HulaGrillKaanapali.com
MAUI JAZZ AND BLUES FESTIVAL KICKOFF EVENING – Fri. Sep 9. The Four Seasons will host four events. King Kekaulike High School Band “June Skies” will perform at the Front Lobby from 5:30-6:30pm. Grammy Jazz and Blues Festival Legends perform live with an amazing dinner prepared by Chef Craig Dryhurst at Duo from 6-9pm. Jazz Alley TV Duo with Benny Uyetake and Rock Hendricks perform at Ferarro’s Bar e Ristorante from 6-9pm. And John Zangrando and Gene Argel perform in the Lobby Lounge from 7-11pm. 5:30pm. Four Seasons Resort, (3900 Wailea Alanui Dr.); 808-874-8000; FourSeasons.com/Maui
MAUI JAZZ AND BLUES FESTIVAL – Sat. Sep 10. Another award winning lineup of great musicians are set to perform. Enjoy Joe Louis Walker, Larry Coryell, Delfeayo Marsalis, The Band Courtbouillon with Wayne Toups, Steve Riley and Wilson Savoy, Javon Jackson, Gabriel Mark Hasselbach, Benny Uyetake, The Jazz Alley TV Trio and other special guests. The festival includes tantalizing food from resort chefs that will be available for purchase and bars featuring Ocean Vodka and Maui Maui Brewing Company. For more information or to purchase tickets go to. 4:30pm. Royal Lahaina Resort, (2780 Kekaa Dr., Ka‘anapali); 808-661-3611; RoyalLahainaResort.com
ROYAL LAHAINA’S JAZZFEST BREAKFAST BUFFET – Sun. Sep 11. Enjoy a breakfast buffet with live jazz and blues. 10:00am. Royal Lahaina Resort, (2780 Kekaa Dr., Kaanapali); 808-661-3611; RoyalLahainaResort.com
FOUR SEASONS JAZZFEST BRUNCH – Sun. Sep 11. While brunching, enjoy a live jazz performance with Jazz Alley TV Trio, with Joie Taylor, Javon Jackson, Gabriel Hasselbach and more. 11:00am. Four Seasons Resort, (3900 Wailea Alanui Dr.); 808-874-8000; FourSeasons.com/Maui
MAUI JAZZ AND BLUES FESTIVAL HANA HOU – Tue. Sep 13. An intimate evening of blues with Joe Louis Walker and Benny Uyetake. Chef Ben Diamond will serve an exquisite three-course organic garden to table meal. A signed Maui Jazz and Blues Festival Electric Guitar will be available at auction to benefit the Pacific Cancer Foundation. BYOB, limited to 40 guests. Reservations required. $125. 6:00pm. Lumeria Maui, (1813 Baldwin Ave., Makawao); 808-579-8877; LumeriaMaui.com