Intermittently on the road as an acoustic duo between gaps in the schedules of their respective ultra-hip fusion bands, Larry Coryell and Steve Khan managed to record several shows and then panned the tape stream to find the nuggets for posterity. There are choices that might have been made out of the fashions of the day, such as the version of Chick Corea's "Spain" that opens the album's first side. Thankfully there are also selections that are here because both guitarists must have realized they were playing magnificently.
Coryell's flair for Wayne Shorter extends beyond simply mastering the tunes to conceptualizing unique guitar settings. Parts of "Juju"'s head are pronounced in simple, chiming harmonics, a delightful way of pointing out that these players understand the guitar in its totality, not just the parts of it that can be used to impress speedfreaks. The hot version of "Footprints" doesn't really express the mystery of Shorter's original mood, yet is terrifically in line with the Django Reinhardt approach to playing a tune, once again full of the kinds of activities fans of acoustic guitar music will find pleasurable.
"St. Gallen" is, in some ways, a remarkable performance. The long introduction sounds like a solo from Coryell, parts of which might be the missing link between him and Derek Bailey. An episode thick with minor seconds and low, throbbing dissonance is only one of many stops on a route that in some ways is as breathtaking as the "milk run" that leaves the St. Gallen station and heads into the Swiss Alps, stopping at farmhouses along the way to pick up fresh dairy shipments. Prior to evoking this image, the piece in its initial moments includes passages of purely show-off rapidity culminating in a lethal swipe at the bridge, the equivalent of a mad critic throwing a knife at a fusion guitarist mid-solo stream.
Khan's admiration for his partner is evident from the liner notes alone. His own style is edgy and observant, and while he doesn't sound simply like someone trying to keep up, he too easily agrees to participate in moments of pieces that come off as more or less typical jamming, such as "Son of Stiff Neck." As for the previously mentioned "Spain," it's too bad they went there -- although anybody performing on this scene during this era was expected to play this "In the Midnight Hour" of jazz standards. A chord emphasized much beyond its importance immediately sets the stage for a flat performance in which the main question listeners might ask themselves is why are there so many notes in the theme -- not the desired reaction when performing a head. The live recording quality is excellent, the tracks fading quickly when the applause begins. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
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