Coryell Agonistes. Last year, when the hyperactive guitarist hooked up with bassist Larry Gray and drummer Paul Wertico for one weekend at the Jazz Showcase, I hoped for the best. I got more. So did Coryell, who left the stage after one set muttering, "These guys are really pushing me! I haven't played like this in years." Indeed, virtually all of his recordings over the last decade--including his misconceived 1993 release on CTI, Fallen Angel--pale in relation to his work with the expansive Gray and the explosive Wertico (both of them leaders with recent albums of their own). Lost time around Coryell brought his spiky, tobogganing style--urgently pushing the music almost ahead of his fingers--to bear on a range of jazz standards. But his improvisations, along with the surprising interplay of this "pickup band," made the familiar jam-session tunes breathtaking and turned ballads that were just "old" into performances of ageless mastery. A year later, the debut of this trio remains among the best Chicago jazz of the 90s; miss the sequel at your own risk. Friday through Sunday, Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4846.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Anna Grossman.