The week leading up to December 21st had social media buzzing with the Mayan Apocalypse, end of the world cartoons, and doomsday quotes. On Wednesday, through the post after post of pointless dribble, something useful was actually posted. Putnam Den announced on their Facebook page an impromptu performance of blues guitarist Murali Coryell the very next day. It wasn’t much advance notice, but having Murali coming up from Woodstock was something that UpstateLIVE was not going to miss.
Before the show we were able to sit down with Murali to talk about his roots: the roots laid before him with having Larry Coryell, a bonafide jazz legend, for a father, and the roots he was laying with his two sons, ages 11 and 9.
Murali held a guitar before he could walk, but he took piano lessons when he was very young and his first instrument he got into was the drums. He said that the drums were key to laying a good foundation that led to other things, like guitar. When he discovered BB King he switched to the blues and the rest was history, having opened up many times for BB King and other legends like Pinetop Perkins.
According to Murali, the blues are the roots of all American music. It’s not just one thing, it is many different styles. It’s something that keeps moving and evolving with the times. Just listening to Murali’s album, 2120 (1999), off the famous Chess Records label, and comparing it to his newest work, Live (2012), off his own label Shake It Sugar Records, the evolution is evident.
Murali comes from a musical family; his father Larry is a jazz legend and his brother Julian is playing guitar for Alanis Morissette. Murali waited to play guitar in his youth; “You can either rebel against it or go with it. When your legacy is something that is so accomplished and famous it is intimidating, but eventually the music catches up to you if you love it enough.” Murali didn’t initially get his guitar lessons from his father though. His dad sent him to someone else, and when Murali was good enough to play with Larry and Julian, they came back together. In 2000, the three of them played together as The Coryells and did an acoustic album. Larry and Murali will be doing a weekend in late March at the Blue Note in NYC, with the possibility of Julian joining them.
Murali is passing on his musical gifts to his sons. Charlie, 11, plays trumpet and when Murali spoke about listening to him practice and play with his friends, he beamed with pride. “Music is a gift to everybody and it is supposed to live and grow. But that’s the thing with the blues. People think of it as an older genre, but I do contemporary blues and let myself be influenced by jazz, funk, soul, and even rock and roll.” His 9 year old is starting out the same way Murali did, playing percussion. When he gets tired of practicing, and rebels like kids do, Murali steps up and reminds him of his roots and what’s in his blood. “You can be whatever you are going to be, whatever you want. But this is part of your heart, your family and something you enjoy.”
When asked about the music industry moving toward the Internet, Murali is quick to embrace it. “The record industry is changing. You learn how to be independent. I get paid; I have a channel on Pandora and I’m on Spotify and you sign up to make yourself available. You may only be getting paid one cent but it adds up. If people like it, they can buy it on iTunes. If they go see you live, they still end up buying it. It builds your fan base.”
For Murali, playing the Putnam Den was cosmic. A late cancellation led the club’s owners to call promoter Bob Millis to see if he could find a last minute fill in. Instead of calling local talent, he reached out to the Woodstock area and called on a favor from his friend, Murali. Murali’s music had other ties to the Putnam Den as well. Owners Tiffany and Jonathan Albert listened to Murali when they were dating, went to see him live in NYC when Jonathan proposed and even danced to Murali’s music at their wedding. So, the night was magical before a single note was strummed.
When the music started… those in attendance didn’t want it to end. UpstateLIVE was lucky enough to record the show (with permission) and post a few songs here. So, next time Murali Coryell is in your town, be sure to go, because the future of the blues is now.
(right click, save as, to download these tracks)