Born in Texas and raised in the Seattle area, Coryell moved to Greenwich Village in New York City after dropping out of journalism school in 1965. He played in various blues, jazz, and rock bands, before replacing famed jazz axeman, Gabor Szabo in Chico Hamilton's group. Coryell emerged as a noted soloist during the late 1960s progressive jazz scene (spearheaded by icon Miles Davis' Bitches Brew) and rose to prominence with aforementioned jazz icons, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola, Jean Luc Ponty, and others.
Coryell is a brilliant jazz virtuoso, who has always been more concerned with "feel" rather than with "speed," though he has no problem with either when it comes to his playing. He offers up a memorable set of both originals and jazz classics, such as "My Funny Valentine" (best known as the theme song for the late Chet Baker), and "Rodrigo Reflections," among others.
From 1971 to 1974, he led the pioneer jazz rock band, Eleventh House, which also included drummer Alfonse Mousson. When that band failed to see any real substantial gains, they folded and Coryell began to focus on acoustic solo shows and projects that paired him with his contemporaries.