McCoy Tyner: How Deep Is The Ocean


How Deep Is The Ocean


McCoy Tyner (piano)


Revelations (Blue Note B2-591651)

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McCoy Tyner (piano).

Composed by Irving Berlin


Recorded: New York, October 25-27, 1988


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

McCoy Tyner essentially adapted Coltrane's vision to the piano, and thus influenced countless young pianists in much the same way as impressionable saxophonists (and other instrumentalists) were inspired by the power, challenging technical mastery, and spirituality of Coltrane's playing. As the years passed after Coltrane's death, it appeared that Tyner was "mellowing," while in reality he was simply returning to a broader stylistic approach, one that was already evident at times during his early '60s stint with Coltrane. Examples would include Tyner's work on Coltrane's Ballads and John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, as well as on his own Impulse albums such as Nights of Ballads and Blues and Plays Ellington.

For Tyner's second solo piano release, and his first since his Coltrane tribute Echoes of a Friend 16 years earlier, producer Michael Cuscuna wisely recorded him in an empty, acoustically ideal Merkin Concert Hall in New York. Thanks to the exceptional quality of Tyner's playing and the superior sound engineered by the esteemed David Baker, Revelations is a standout item in the pianist's vast discography. Tyner's version of "How Deep is the Ocean" is fascinating for what it reveals about his own influences as much as for how he can reinvent and refresh a well-known standard. He begins with some tolling dissonant notes alternating with cavernous chords, before entering the theme and embellishing it with jabbing phrases and potent left-hand figures. You are struck by how his penetrating sound seems to be fully resonating throughout the intimate venue in which he's playing. Tyner's solo mixes intriguing motifs and pounding chords with quick flourishes and runs, and he even takes his attack into exhilarating overdrive leading up to the final exploration of the melody, which he ends with a fittingly Monkish "trinkle tinkle." As you listen, glimpses flash by of Monk's quirkiness, Tatum's extravagance, and even Earl Hines's dexterous 2-handed unpredictability, all wonderfully endearing and gripping, if at times nearly overwhelming.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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