Tag Archives: Brian Keane

Pic Of The Day #90

The Reunion Band rocked the packed Levitt Pavilion last night. Comprised entirely of graduates of Staples High School’s Class of 1971, its members have played and recorded with — among many others — Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Miles, Van Morrison, Smokey Robinson and Orleans. (Photo copyright Ted Horowitz)

Brian Keane Remembers Larry Coryell

The music world is mourning Larry Coryell. The jazz guitarist with a rock sensibility, died Sunday in New York. He was 73.

He’s also a former Westporter. Coryell lived for several years on Watch Hill, off North Compo across from the Town Farm tennis courts.

His career was intertwined with another Westport musician, Brian Keane. The Staples High School Class of 1971 grad has composed the music for hundreds of films and television shows, produced over 100 albums, and won Grammys, Emmys and Peabodys. 

Brian recalls his friend, fellow collaborator, and enormous influence:

Larry Coryell

Larry Coryell

Larry Coryell was a legendary guitarist who pioneered the fusion of jazz and rock. There will be lots of tributes to his career. He played with everybody in jazz.

Besides his own 11th House band, he recorded with John McLoughlin, Gary Burton, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock.

He also made some recordings with me.

Larry was an amazing musician. Many people don’t realize it, but he was among the best rhythm guitar players (certainly that I ever played with). He was incredibly supportive as a rhythm player. I didn’t even realize that until years later, when I listened to old tapes of some concerts that someone recorded of us together in Europe. He could play very fast as well of course, and he could play a wide variety of styles.

I was 24 years old when I met Larry in 1977. I had managed to get some gigs with Eddie Gomez, Jeremy Steig, and a few other notable musicians. I heard Larry lived in the area, and arranged to take a guitar lesson from him (in order to meet him).

It worked. We became friend, and partners in crime, partying and sharing music. We were both wild men back then, living the life, in the height of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. I could tell you so many crazy stories it would take pages. But I will save those mostly depraved and highly entertaining tales for those who lived through that era with us.

Larry Coryell (left) and Brian Keane in Europe, 1982.

Larry Coryell (left) and Brian Keane in Europe, 1982.

I gave Larry’s kids guitar lessons when they were young. I was good friends with his departed wife Julie, and Larry and I had many good friends in common.

After a while, Larry and I did some festivals together, and started doing duo gigs (lots more stories I could tell). Larry provided a young idiot savant stoner guitarist (me) a chance to do concerts around the world. We went everywhere together for a while: all 50 states, more than 50 countries, in about a 5-year span. We made 4 records together. I thought it was the biggest thing for my career at the time (and it probably was then).

However, Larry and I did something even bigger for each other than just about anything else that happened, and it had a tremendous impact on both of our lives.

We got sober together. And we did it largely on the road.

I have to give Larry’s wife Julie some of the credit for making him go to get help, and forcing me to be clean in order to tour and record with him. But Larry took it seriously, and kept me in line (at the age of 28 when I definitely didn’t want to be). That said, I got better at it eventually, and helped him more than a time or two as well.

This was an era when nobody in the music business was going straight. As much as Larry showed me some great guitar riffs or chord changes, as much as I got to see the world as a young man playing with him, I owe Larry my greatest debt of gratitude for being that person I leaned on to stay sober while out on the road — and I was that for him as well. Later, we influenced many other prominent musicians in that same regard.

Larry and I stayed in touch over the years, though our career paths went in different directions. I have stayed in touch with his incredibly talented kids Murali and Julian as well. Larry was very sick last year, but I thought he was on the mend.

His death leaves a huge hole in my life, in the lives of so many of our mutual friends who were there during those years, and in the music world. But my heart especially goes out to his wife Tracey and the Coryell family at this difficult time.

R.I.P., my fellow road warrior. We certainly did up some great times together.

The video below is a very rare recording of “Bolero” by Larry Coryell and Brian Keane. It was recorded live in concert in Italy, in 1983.

Play A Song For Me

I promised myself I would not write about my Staples reunion this weekend.  But:  I can’t help myself.

Sugar pie, honey bunch…

Of course.  Anyone of a certain age (mine) knows without thinking that those are the only words that follow “I can’t help myself.”

Just as everyone at our reunion — or any other one, anywhere, from that era — understands instinctively that the only thing boot heels do is “wander.”  And — as Doctor Doctor Mister M.D. says — all you really need is good lovin’.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Brian Keane and Charlie Karp rock on. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

One of the many highlights at Saturday’s reunion was the band.  All were members of our Staples Class of 1971.  Billy Sims, Rob McClenathan, Bubba Barton — each with non-music jobs now — joined Mike Mugrage, Brian Keane, Jeff Dowd, Billy Seidman and Charlie Karp to play some of what Cat Mother and the All Night Newboys know is “that good old rock ‘n’ roll.”

Mike toured and performed with James Brown, Ronnie Spector and Orleans. Brian is a multiple Grammy and Emmy Award-winning composer.  Jeff is an opera singer based in Germany.   Billy teaches music at NYU.

Charlie never graduated from Staples.  He dropped out a few weeks into 10th grade, forsaking algebra and gym for touring and recording with guys like Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles.  He’s now back in this area, playing with great bands like Slo Leak.

These guys sometimes played together at Staples.  They were in different groups too.

Linda Satin, Carissa Simon, Margaret Hart and Bonnie Housner channel the Supremes. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

On Saturday night — with the addition of former Orphenians Bonnie Housner, Margaret Hart, Julie Aldworth McClenathan, Kim Plaut, Linda Satin and Carissa Simon as singers, all of whom had the “Stop!  In the Name of Love” hand motions down pat — they brought us back to a time when music was not only real and good, but a shared experience.

Everyone who went to school in the 1960s and 70s listened to the same songs at the same time.  We heard them on transistor radios, car radios, turntables at parties.

Just a snippet of the most obscure tunes — “I’m Your Puppet,” “Hitchin’ a Ride,” “Indiana Wants Me” — brings back powerful memories of precise places, people and the funny/outrageous/bizarre/typical/illegal things we were doing at those moments.

So as I listened and danced Saturday night — Mustang Sally, you been runnin’ all over town — I said to myself:  “Man, you are one lucky guy to have grown up when you did.”

Jimi Hendrix, back when music was music.

And then I thought about music today.  When the Class of 2011 has its reunion, they will not have actual music to listen to.

Nor will they have classmate bands from high school to play it.

Nor experience the joy of growing up sharing the same music, at the same time and place, during a transformative time in their young lives.

I threw this sad fact out at a friend from Burr Farms, Long Lots and Staples — a guy I haven’t seen in decades, but who because of our time together long ago, I’d reconnected with instantly.

He didn’t buy it.

His kids — in their late teens and early 20s — love the Beatles, Doors and other groups we also loved, he said, back in the day.

Suddenly, I felt fine.

In 2051, I realized, alums attending their own 40th reunions will listen to the same music we did.

Eighty years before.

Oscar, Oscar!

When America watches the Oscars tomorrow, at least 3 Westporters will have more than a casual interest.

Neil Katz and Andy Sawyer are executive producers of “The Kids Are All Right.”

The film — about 2 kids conceived by artificial insemination, who bring their birth family into their family’s life — has been nominated for 4 Academy Awards.  Three are pretty random (for example, “Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen”), but 1 is the biggie:  “Best Motion Picture.”

“The Kids Are All Right” has already won a Golden Globe for “Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy.”

Of course, feature films are not the only Oscar nominees.  Less heralded, but equally important (at least to the makers’ friends and family) documentaries have their own categories.  “The Warriors of Qiugang” — about Chinese villagers who take on a chemical company that’s poisoning their air and water — is up for “Best Documentary Short Subject.”

Staples grad Brian Keane composed the haunting music.  A multiple Grammy, Emmy and Peabody Award winner, Brian is also a noted producer, working with artists as diverse as Pete Seeger, Linda Ronstadt and the London Symphony Orchestra.

We’re sure there are Oscar-related Westporters we’ve missed.  Click “Comments” — and help make tomorrow night in California even more intriguing for those of us home in Connecticut.