Thursday, November 10, 2005

Heralding Tyner

Glasgow’s The Herald ran a nice appreciation of pianist McCoy Tyner, sadly the last surviving member of John Coltrane’s classic quartet:

Fifty years ago, as a 17-year-old pianist starting out in Philadelphia, McCoy Tyner was introduced to a friend of a friend who sat in with their band on tenor saxophone. Tyner and the newcomer hit it off straight away and would go round to this new acquaintance's mother's house to talk about music.

John Coltrane, for it was he, was back home on a sabbatical from Miles Davis's band at the time and would shortly rejoin Davis. But he left Philadelphia with the promise that, when he formed his own band, he'd have Tyner on piano.

Of course, in 1960 Tyner did join ‘Trane’s band and went on to provide blistering vamps, rhythmic harmonics, and sheer beauty on some of the best jazz recordings every cut. He also had a stellar solo career, most notably on the seminal The Real McCoy. And now Blue Note has re-released another classic, Time for Tyner, on their Rudy Van Gelder Editions, which has become the Rosetta Stone of post-bop jazz – though jazz is a language that is ultimately untranslatable into any written word.

On May 17th, 1968, barely a month after Martin Luther King, JR. was assassinated, Tyner, the extraordinary vibist Bobby Hutcherson, bassist Herbie Lewis, and drummer Freddie Waits (father of one of today’s best drummers, Nasheet Waits) headed over to Englewood Cliffs, NJ to record at Van Gelder Studios (in seems Van Gelder was present at the recording of almost every major jazz album of the past half century).

The opening track, “African Village,” a Tyner original, opens with Lewis’s melodic bass line that quickly draws an African-themed percussive response from Waits. Waits and Lewis trade licks in an amazing bass-drum duet, before Hutch enters on vibes. Soon Tyner and Hutch are creating rich harmonic layers, and this continues for 12 enlightened minutes punctuated by driving solos. This is clearly a tight band; all four players are sympathetic to each others musical ticks. I’m getting that tingling feeling listening as I type – but then Tyner and Hutch are two of my all time favorite musicians and hearing the two of them together is like watching Bogie and Bacall – they are perfectly matched.

The opening cut alone is worth the 12 bucks, but the rest of the album doesn’t disappoint, including a trio rendition of “The Surrey With The Fringe on Top,” and a solo version of “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face.” Why this album has been unavailable for so long is a mystery, but now that it’s back, enjoy.


At 9:43 PM, Blogger Brian Campbell said...

Actually, David, you do things with pictures I can't seem to do -- position them in appropriate places in the article. I wonder how you do that? Whenever I put multiple pictures up, they all go to the top (rather like bubbles in water.) Are you using the blogger picture software?

At 9:44 PM, Blogger Brian Campbell said...

Besides that, I enjoyed these posts...


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