THE DOZENS: MCCOY TYNER by Jared Pauley



                McCoy Tyner, by Jos L. Knaepen


McCoy Tyner is one of the most celebrated pianists of the last 45 years. Hailing from the musical town of Philadelphia, where he was born in 1938, Tyner has played, recorded and performed with a plethora of musicians, most notably as a member of John Coltrane’s classic quartet from the 1960s alongside Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones.

In his post-Coltrane years, Tyner has cultivated a more than memorable career both as leader and as sideman. He has continued to release albums that have experimented with different kinds of instrumentation, musical styles and formats, from the 1960s Reaching Fourth and The Real McCoy to his most recent Guitars. The latter effort made clear that, even in his seventies, McCoy Tyner is a titanic force at the keyboard.

From Latin to African to big band, McCoy Tyner has used various platforms as a stepping-stone for his harmonic virtuosity and fluency as a soloist. This installment of jazz.com’s Dozens shines a small light on the career of a man who has influenced virtually all pianists and many other jazz musicians of the past half century.


McCoy Tyner: Afro Blue

Track

Afro Blue

Artist

McCoy Tyner (piano)

CD

Song of the New World (Milestone)

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Musicians:

McCoy Tyner (piano), Hubert Laws (flute, piccolo), Sonny Fortune (flute, alto & tenor saxes),

Virgil Jones, Cecil Bridgewater, Jon Faddis (trumpets), Garnett Brown, Dick Griffin (trombones), Kiane Zawadi (euphonium), Julius Watkins, Willie Ruff, William Warnick III (French horns), Bob Stewart (tuba), Juney Booth (bass), Alphonse Mouzon (drums), Sonny Morgan (congas)

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Composed by Mongo Santamaria

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Recorded: New York, April 9, 1973

Albumcovermccoytyner-songofthenewworld

Rating: 91/100 (learn more)

Although his former employer John Coltrane made this Mongo Santamaria-penned song a permanent staple of his repertoire, McCoy Tyner takes the tune to new heights with an all-star ensemble. The piece opens with lushly orchestrated flute trills and light hand percussion, setting the mood for the journey at hand. The band has no problem handling the 6/8 groove. When the main part of the head kicks in, it invokes feelings of grandeur and adventure, with Alphonse Mouzon setting the stage for Hubert Laws and Sonny Fortune to trade flute lines. Tyner then shows why he is such a heralded pianist, with a ferocious but melodic solo that forces the listener to concentrate on Tyner's left hand as much as his right. This is a stellar arrangement of an already classic composition.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


McCoy Tyner: Song of the New World

Track

Song of the New World

Artist

McCoy Tyner (piano)

CD

Song of the New World (Milestone)

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Musicians:

McCoy Tyner (piano), Hubert Laws (flute, piccolo), Sonny Fortune (flute),

Harry Smiles (oboe), Juney Booth (bass), Alphonse Mouzon (drums)

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Composed by McCoy Tyner

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Recorded: New York, April 6, 1973

Albumcovermccoytyner-songofthenewworld

Rating: 88/100 (learn more)

This Latin-fueled number starts with McCoy Tyner's signature use of cluster chords and bass notes. It follows the motif of many songs heard on this album, but shows Tyner's diversity as an arranger with his inventive use of flutes. Sonny Fortune and Hubert Laws give this song the brightness that drives the melody, yet at times Tyner's piano drowns out the flutes. Parts of Tyner's solo remind me of the way an electric guitarist would phrase, with his rapid use of notes, giving the listener little time to think about what he has played. Still, this song is very much a gem on this oft-overlooked but experimental album from the piano master.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


McCoy Tyner: Atlantis

Track

Atlantis

Artist

McCoy Tyner (piano)

CD

Atlantis (Milestone)

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Musicians:

McCoy Tyner (piano),

Azar Lawrence (soprano & tenor saxes), Juney Booth (bass), Wilby Fletcher (drums), Guilherme Franco (percussion)

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Composed by McCoy Tyner

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Recorded: live at the Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA, August 31, 1974

Albumcoversmccoytyneratlantis

Rating: 87/100 (learn more)

This song opens with a simple introduction as Guilherme Franco plays several bells and percussion. McCoy Tyner next plays a solo leading to the main part. Clocking in at over 18 minutes, this is one of the longest Tyner tracks on record, whether in the studio or during a live performance. But its length only adds to the beauty, as the band weaves in and out of this Latin-influenced groove. Wilby Fletcher really gets the job the done on drums, and is further aided by Franco's wonderful percussion work. Tyner's solo is preceded by Azar Lawrence's tenor sax solo, which sets up Tyner perfectly. Though none of these sidemen is a household name, they give Tyner an ideal backdrop for his explorations.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


McCoy Tyner: Nebula

Track

Nebula

Artist

McCoy Tyner (piano, percussion)

CD

Enlightenment (Milestone)

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Musicians:

McCoy Tyner (piano, percussion),

Azar Lawrence (soprano & tenor saxes), Juney Booth (bass), Alphonse Mouzon (drums)

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Composed by McCoy Tyner

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Recorded: live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland, July 7, 1973

Albumcovermccoytyner-enlightenment

Rating: 86/100 (learn more)

Recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, which has historically produced memorable music, "Nebula" is one of many diamonds found on this live disc. The song opens with drummer Alphonse Mouzon playing a powerful samba beat, and additional percussion provided by McCoy Tyner over bass drones by Juney Booth. Tyner's solo is very avant-garde, but it works. The only complaint I have is the overall sonic quality. At times the piano drowns out even the drums, which are going full force in regards to dynamics. Regardless, this piece has a demented quality that makes for good, challenging listening.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


McCoy Tyner: Survival Blues

Track

Survival Blues

Group

Englewood Cliffs, NJ, February 9, 1970

CD

Extensions (Blue Note)

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Musicians:

McCoy Tyner (piano), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Alice Coltrane (harp), Ron Carter (bass), Elvin Jones (drums).

Composed by McCoy Tyner

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Albumcovermccoytyner-extensions

Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

McCoy Tyner finds himself among elite company on Extensions. Recorded as jazz was entering the fusion period, this is a great example of just how good straight-ahead swing can sound. The song starts with Tyner's piano introduction as Ron Carter doubles the bassline and Elvin Jones rides the ride cymbal unlike anyone else, adding wonderful accents on the snare drum as well. Also featured, though at times hard to hear, is Alice Coltrane, who adds some nice textures with the harp. As the melody comes in, the one and only Wayne Shorter brings everything full circle with his exotic and tasteful blend of melodic explorations. This performance matches the superb quality of previous Shorter and Tyner albums where members of the Davis and Coltrane groups recorded together.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


McCoy Tyner: Manalyuca

Track

Manalyuca

Artist

McCoy Tyner (piano)

CD

Land of Giants (Telarc)

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Musicians:

McCoy Tyner (piano), Bobby Hutcherson (vibes),

Charnett Moffett (bass), Eric Harland (drums)

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Composed by McCoy Tyner

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Recorded: New York, December 10-11, 2002

Albumcovermccoytyner-landofgiants

Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

Since the turn of the new millennium, many jazz greats, including McCoy Tyner, have rediscovered the classic sound that made them so renowned in the beginning of their careers. Tyner enlists vibraphone master Bobby Hutcherson on this dark, Latin-influenced piece. It starts with an infectious bass riff, which is greatly enhanced by Eric Harland's drumbeat. At first you might think you were listening to an album from the '60s because of its sound. Tyner is in typical form with fluent melodic ideas and complex harmonic counterpoints. The ultimate beauty of this piece is that the musicians let the music breathe, in which space Charnett Moffett plays a great bowed upright bass solo. This is a fantastic song, plain and simple.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


McCoy Tyner: Little Madimba

Track

Little Madimba

Artist

McCoy Tyner (piano)

CD

Time For Tyner (Blue Note)

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Musicians:

McCoy Tyner (piano), Bobby Hutcherson (vibes),

Herbie Lewis (bass), Freddie Waits (drums)

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Composed by McCoy Tyner

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Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, May 17, 1968

Albumcovermccoytyner-timefortyner

Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

McCoy Tyner here shows his genius at utilizing the suspended chord in composition. As his career progressed, his songs also began to move towards a very African/Latin-influenced style, as shown by this track. Tyner and Bobby Hutcherson complement each other nicely, bleeding into the same instrumental range with pleasant, satisfying results. The mood is striking because the musicians attack the beat with their collective rhythms during the head and the solo sections; yet the song maintains a consistent, mellow vibe. Hutcherson and Tyner both play magnificently, each displaying advanced technique on his respective instrument.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


McCoy Tyner: Sahara

Track

Sahara

Artist

McCoy Tyner (piano, koto, flute, percussion)

CD

Sahara (Milestone)

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Musicians:

McCoy Tyner (piano, koto, flute, percussion), Sonny Fortune (alto & soprano saxes, flute),

Calvin Hill (bass, reeds, percussion), Alphonse Mouzon (drums, trumpet, reeds, percussion)

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Composed by McCoy Tyner

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Recorded: New York, January 1972

Albumcovermccoytyner-sahara

Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Sahara marked one of McCoy Tyner's most successful periods as a commercial artist. Yet as encouraging as it is to see a jazz musician get the recognition he deserves, it's even better to discover that musical quality hasn't been sacrificed for commercial gain. Such is the case on this track. At 20+ minutes in length, "Sahara" allows the musicians to experiment with different instruments. Tyner plays koto, flute and hand percussion, while drummer Alphonse Mouzon plays trumpet during the intro. Sonny Fortune steals the show, however, with a rapidly paced soprano sax solo. A nice song from a good album that garnered Tyner the shine he was due as an artist.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


McCoy Tyner: Searchin'

Track

Searchin'

Artist

McCoy Tyner (piano)

CD

McCoy Tyner Plays Ellington (Impulse)

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Musicians:

McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), Elvin Jones (drums),

Johnny Pacheco, Willie Rodriguez (percussion)

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Composed by Duke Ellington & Steve Allen

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Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, December 8, 1964

Albumcovermccoytynerplaysellington

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

During a period when McCoy Tyner was playing and recording full time with John Coltrane, the pianist also found time to appear on many other memorable sessions, including an album of Duke Ellington covers. On this laid-back number, Tyner is in top form. The bluesy structure gives Tyner the perfect excuse to swing. He combines wonderfully timed blues lines with his well-known cascading melodic lines. Latin percussion is a welcome addition to this already amazing Coltrane-less trio of Tyner, Garrison and Jones. From this point on, Tyner would continue to release highly received solo albums, besides making significant contributions to albums by Wayne Shorter, adding further to the seeds planted on this recording.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


McCoy Tyner: Update

Track

Update

Artist

McCoy Tyner (piano)

CD

The Turning Point (Birdlogy)

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Musicians:

McCoy Tyner (piano),

Kamau Adilifu, Earl Gardner, Virgil Jones (trumpets), Frank Lacy, Steve Turre (trombones), John Clark (French horn), Howard Johnson (tuba), Doug Harris (flute), Joe Ford (alto sax), Junior Cook, John Stubblefield (tenor saxes), Avery Sharpe (bass), Aaron Scott (drums), Jerry Gonzalez (percussion)

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Composed by McCoy Tyner

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Recorded: New York, November 19-20, 1991

Albumcovermccoytyner-theturningpoint

Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

One of the real beauties of jazz is how combinations of instruments can open up the power and capability of an ensemble. I always love hearing how songs can be transformed by a big band. I particularly enjoy hearing McCoy Tyner's music played by a big band, as epitomized by The Turning Point. McCoy sounds absolutely stunning with a full band behind him, and the orchestrations further enhance the overall sound. Bassist Avery Sharpe really does it for me on this song, driving the band all the way home with a steady walking line. Tyner takes his usual tour de force solo, but this one is well thought out and heavier in harmonic applications than melodic ones.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


McCoy Tyner: Fly with the Wind

Track

Fly with the Wind

Artist

McCoy Tyner (piano)

CD

Fly with the Wind (Milestone)

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Musicians:

McCoy Tyner (piano), Hubert Laws (flute, alto flute), Ron Carter (bass), Billy Cobham (drums),

Paul Renzi (piccolo, flute), Raymond Duste (oboe), Guilherme Franco (tambourine), 9-piece string section

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Composed by McCoy Tyner

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Recorded: Berkeley, CA, January 19-21, 1976

Albumcovermccoytyner-flywiththewind

Rating: 87/100 (learn more)

Beginning with a haunting string introduction, everything works perfectly here, as the music takes one's mind into a world of enchantment. Though some might not entirely like the jazz-with-strings sound, it works wonders on this bright, happy composition. Tyner really pushed the creative boundaries with his music in the 1970s, mixing orchestras and larger bands with his traditional acoustic background of the '60s. The results on "Fly with the Wind" are more than worthy of a few nice words, though I could understand how some might think that the strings do this song more of disservice than a service. But Tyner more than compensates with his total command of the piano.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


McCoy Tyner: Elvin (Sir) Jones

Track

Elvin (Sir) Jones

Artist

McCoy Tyner (piano, harpsichord, cello)

CD

Trident (Milestone)

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Musicians:

McCoy Tyner (piano, harpsichord, cello), Ron Carter (bass), Elvin Jones (drums).

Composed by McCoy Tyner

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Recorded: Los Angeles, CA, August 1975-September 1976

Albumcovermccoytyner-trident

Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

What a great combination: Tyner, Carter & Jones. McCoy Tyner wrote a fabulous song for his former Coltrane bandmate. The piano is Tyner's mistress, as he effortlessly burns through chorus after chorus with magnificent use of textures, bringing out his instrument's utmost beauty and darkness. Elvin Jones lives up to his namesake, with his ride patterns and head-splitting snare accents. Ron Carter shows why he is one of the most recorded bassists in history, with a diverse bassline moving back and forth with Jones as if they were two boxers sparring in practice. The magic of the Davis-Coltrane rhythm sections was captured nicely on recordings in the '60s and '70s, and this track stands as a strong testament to their power.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


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