Julie Coryell, jazz author, manager, muse

Women in music behind-the-scenes deserve note — and Julie Coryell, who died May 10, was a force in as author of Jazz-Rock Fusion — The People, The Music, published in 1978, and as the inspiration of her then-husband guitarist Larry Coryell starting in the ’60s.

Obituaries of Ms. Coryell call her a singer, actress and songwriter, but many jazz fans first encountered her in a framed portrait that graced the front and back covers of Lady Coryell, Larry’s breakthrough recording of 1969. The couple was also depicted in Adam and Eve-like splendor (with two children who I assume are who are NOT their sons Julian and Murali, both of whom grew up to become guitarists) on Coryell, also released in ’69.

She managed Larry’s career for 15 years, but it is her book that may account for the most frequent citation of Julie Coryell evermore. Originally published in 1978, it comprises straightforward q&a interviews of 26 58musicians, including Miles Davis (during the period in which he was in deep seclusion), drummer Tony Williams, electric bassist Jaco Pastorius and guitarists John Abercrombie, Joe Beck, George Benson, Philip Catherine, Larry Coryell (surprise!) and Al di Meola. Up close and personal photos of the interviewees by Laura Friedman enhanced the large format of the first edition. Jazz-Rock Fusion was reissued, slightly smaller, in 2000 with Julie’s new introduction, but it seems to have gone out of print again; used copies are going for $41 and up.

Ms. Coryell moved to Woodstock in 1986, where she founded the Woodstock Experimental Writers Theater. She had been living in a nursing home, but according to an email from her son Murali she died “suddenly” — which I gather means unexpectedly. Funeral services are being held Tuesday, May 19.

It is not at all uncommon for women who live with jazz musicians to take a firm hand in their men’s careers, to raise children with them and to pursue their own professional interests, too. Julie Coryell seems to have exemplified this model, and fusion fans as well as future researchers should be grateful that she — like Laurie Pepper, Sue Graham Mingus, Martha Weaver (widow of Louis Jordan) and a few others — have published works that shed light on music and musicians from their unique, insightful perspectives.

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  1. Rick Sowden says

    Good article. I’m a friend of Larry’s and know the family and the only correction I can give is the kids in the Album cover. His first son Murali was born the year that photo was taken. Those kids were his doctor’s kids, Larry told me once.
    HM: Thanks for the correction. By the way, Larry, Julian and Murali recorded together, under the title The Coryells, in 2000.

  2. says

    Julie Coryell seems a complete artist that contributed to the muscical scene and innovation. She was very courageous to be able to assume the role of a wife, mother, artist and others role she plays. Good memories of her performance on the scene of life.