McCoy Tyner: In a Sentimental Mood
In a Sentimental Mood
McCoy Tyner (piano)
McCoy Tyner (piano).
Composed by Duke Ellington.
Recorded: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, August 31, 1974
Rating: 98/100 (learn more)
Musicians today have little sense of the pressure on jazz artists to jump on board the Free Jazz bandwagon during the late 1960s and 1970s. It was leaving town, turbocharged by the inexorable force of History with a capital H, and you didn't want to be left behind, stuck with old-fashioned chord changes. ("Chord changes, we don't need no stinkin' chord changes.") McCoy Tyner had helped set the Free Jazz movement in motion with his 1960s work alongside John Coltrane, but the pianist mostly remained within the bounds of tonality during his post-Coltrane career. Yet even an artist of this stature wrestled with the conflict between staying inside or moving beyond the harmonies.
No Tyner performance is more revealing of this tension than his solo piano rendition of "In a Sentimental Mood" from the memorable Atlantis live date from the summer 1974. There are long stretches here where Cecil Taylor seems to have taken over the keyboard, buzzing and hammering and obliterating the tonal center. Then Ellington's beautiful pentatonic melody will rise above the fray, like some towering monument to structure and order. But Tyner eventually moves beyond these external influences, and constructs his own rhapsodic vision of this song. This music is intense and beautiful by turns, and some moments are absolutely breathtaking. Solo acoustic jazz piano was making a comeback during this decade under the influence of Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Cecil Taylor and others, but even in an era of keyboard masterpieces this track stands out from the crowd.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia