Narrow talks to Guitar Legend Larry Coryell

The Eleventh House mix it up in St. Augustine.

Narrow Talks to Guitar Legend Larry Coryell

By Ariel Thomas

Larry Coryell of The Eleventh House isn’t just in St. Augustine for the scenery. This one time Rolling Stone cover artist has been recording a new album at local studio Fishtank, and has brought his popular band with him.

The band came back together after Larry was experimenting with an all-guitar based group. Coryell’s then-band was booked for a gig at the Blue Note Jazz Club, until the owner called up Coryell and told him he wasn’t crazy about the upcoming performance.

“Before he even finished his sentence I said, ‘I’ll give you The Eleventh House,’” Coryell recalls. On this promise, the owner gave him the gig.

The Eleventh House took the jazz scene by storm back in the early ‘70s. Then, they were signed to Vanguard Records, and the members were Coryell, trumpet player Randy Brecker, keyboardist Mike Mendel, base player Danny Triffin and drummer Alphonse Mouzon. The band has undergone some replacements since, but the initial mission Coryell and Mouzon imagined for the Eleventh House remains.

“We wanted to respect the jazz tradition,” Coryell says of the initial meeting between him and Mouzon. Here, they hit it off, and discovered they had the same perception of how they wanted the music to be. And they did honor the jazz tradition. “By bringing in the elements of contemporary music,” Coryell says. “So we wouldn’t just be duplicating the work of our heroes.”

After replacing their trumpet player, keyboardist, and bass player, the Eleventh House continued to make music until ’77, around the time when Coryell had a revelation.

“I had a realization that I didn’t want to play loud music anymore,” he says. “It was great but it was too loud. So I went completely acoustic.”

Coryell’s career was acoustic for the next few years. He formed a duet with Belgian musician Philip Catherine, and they toured Europe. Fast forward to 2016, and the Eleventh House is reuniting right here in St. Augustine, with Coryell, his son Julian, John Lee, and Mouzon, with the help of producer Lu Rubino, head of the studio Fishtank.

Coryell and Rubino met after Rubino started producing music for Coryell’s wife, Tracy (think Sarah McLaughlin type music). Coryell noticed Rubino’s talent, and the pair have been working together since.

“He’s not only a good engineer, he’s a good musician,” Coryell says of Rubino. “He’s empathetic to the artists that record in Fishtank.”

Rubino has been a musician in St. Augustine for over twenty years. He started Fishtank back in 2003. Since he’s done so well in the community, he feels that it’s his duty to give back, through giving encouragement to young musicians. Coryell also admires Rubino as both a producer and passionate musician, which is what makes him so good at what he does. Because Rubino thinks how his clients do.

“There’d be no record without him,” Coryell says.

What fans of The Eleventh House can expect from the upcoming album (signed under Savoy Records, who has featured artists like Charlie Parker and James Cleveland), Coryell says, is that it’s going to be like slipping on an old, comfortable shoe. As for new fans?

“I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised,” Coryell says.

dave kosciolek