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McCoy Tyner

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McCoy Tyner is almost certainly the most well-represented pianist in my jazz collection. I don’t have much from the (solo) Impulse days, I have everything from Blue Note (both stretches), the majority of the stuff on Milestone, a good helping from a long period where he popped just about anywhere, all the stuff on Telarc, all the stuff on his own label. Some stretches are brief, like the last two, but add it all up…and it’s a lot. Then you have all the appearances with Coltrane, and I have lots of Coltrane.

I’m still working on Milestone stuff, because there are still some discoveries there for me. He did it all in those years: the Coltrane-inspired quartets, all-star trios, one great solo record, many intriguing mid-size groups, big band, strings, voices. One major discovery is Sama Layuca with Hutcherson, Bartz, Lawrence, and Stubblefield. Great stuff, by turns intense and haunting.

Records I have not heard on Milestone are Atlantis, Inner Voices, and Fly with the Wind.

I invite your comments and recommendations.

Edited by Milestones

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One of my very favorites is TODAY AND TOMORROW (Impulse). The sextet tracks featuring Thad Jones, Frank Strozier and John Gilmore are excellent.

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That's funny you mention that because I heard one track from this on an Impulse sampler and didn't much care for it, especially Gilmore's solo. It just made me think, "How did this guy get such an exalted reputation?" But I suppose I should hear the whole record.

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Oh, John Gilmore? Let's put aside Tyner for a second - you will quite possibly want to hear Andrew Hill's Andrew!!! & Paul Bley's Turning Point.

For Tyner on impulse!, I'll them take all, but the trio sides Inception, Reaching Fourth, & Nights Of Ballads And Blues take pride of place for me.

As for the Milestone sides you don't already know, Atlantis is a must-have, I think, Fly With The Wind is kinda funny these days because of the Tyner/Billy Cobham fireworks show it entails, and Inner Voices is one to save for that special moment when you say, "aw, what the hell, I got everything else, might as well get this one too"

A later Milestone side that people seem to sleep on is Together, which is often dismissed as too "slick" or something like that, but I dunno, there's some very good playing on there, and the more "controlled" settings were actually a refreshing change of pace at the time, and it holds up for me..

One that I slept on for too long was a big band album on Verve, The Turning Point. That's a damn good record.

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'Sama Layuca' is a good one. As is 'Horizon'. I saw the band not too long after Horizon came out, with the Joe Ford/John Blake front line and it was incendiary.

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If you have "Enlightenment," and like it, then "Atlantis" is a must-have, too.

I'll assume you have "Super Trios," but if not - get it. Not only for McCoy, but some of the best drumming (Tony Williams & Jack DeJohnette) in a trio setting that you're likely to hear anywhere.

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'Sama Layuca' is a good one. As is 'Horizon'. I saw the band not too long after Horizon came out, with the Joe Ford/John Blake front line and it was incendiary.

Yeah, that band with Joe Ford/John Blake was fantastic. I´ll never forget the event when I heard them in March 1980. I just had a bad kind of flu and was reluctant to go to the concert.

The first number......wow......gone was the flu, I was feelin great again. it was like a healing song.

I listen very closely to the music I hear, so I somehow had that first tune in my ears, 30 odd years I had it in my ears.

On the "Horizon" album it was not. Later I found out the title "The Seeker". That´s the tune. It´s on that 4xQuartet, that great album that followed Horizon, with 4 quartets feat. Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, John Abercrombie and Athur Blythe. "Seeker" is one of the tunes where Bobby Hutcherson plays.

Tyner and Hutcherson, great combination, got among others that BN album from the late 60s , with Herbie Lewis on bass, who often played with McCoy.

Another great album on Milestones is "Supertrios", and of course a must for each McCoy Tyner fan might be the "Milestones Allstars" with Sonny Rollins, McCoy, Ron Carter, Al Foster.......just fantastic.

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The band on Dimensions, a stray post-Milestone recording from 1984, was also fantastic live--with John Blake, Gary Bartz, John Lee, and Wilby Fletcher.

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Atlantis is good and definitely worth having/hearing but it's not as good as Enlightenment (IMHO). I'm weird I guess, but I really like Fly with the Wind. Jim is right - it's a Tyner/Billy Cobham fireworks show, but it really works IMHO.

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What Jim said with a couple addendums:

Those early Impulse trio recordings are remarkable: incredibly rich in detail, emotionally fulfilling and the language was (and continues to be) extremely influential on several generations of pianists. They define nearly everything about McCoy's playing, except for the jackhammer power, modal fervor and compositional aesthetic that would develop through the rest of the '60s and then define the Milestones. I think you can love later McCoy like I do but still lament the loss of the sparkling quality of the early trios.

"Together" is a terrific record all-around, save perhaps the studio recording sound, which is of the era. This is one of the Milestones I find myself pulling out and listening to, along with "Trident," "Enlightenment" and "Atlantis."

Edited by Mark Stryker

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Back in my salad (and other leafy substances) days "Fly with the Wind" was always amazing and transporting for me. Still holds up most of the way.

I love all the Impulse trios, enough that I bought two of them on SACD.

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Hm, I might have to eventually re-evaluate those Impulses ... I never really warmed to them very much.

To me, Tyner turned out better and better leader albums and what I love most are probably the last ones on Blue Note and the early Milestone ones.

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Hm, I might have to eventually re-evaluate those Impulses ... I never really warmed to them very much.

To me, Tyner turned out better and better leader albums and what I love most are probably the last ones on Blue Note and the early Milestone ones.

Well, in a fire, the first McCoy record I'm grabbing is "The Real McCoy" -- don't get no better than that -- and conceptually his world view absolutely grew in rewarding directions. Just saying the Impulse trios represent a singular aesthetic and long-lasting influence.

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Oh, I'm not doubting that! But somehow I never really connected to them all that much. I like them alright, but I don't hear those special things in them that you describe. But I will think of this whenever I take them out of the shelves again, I'm sure - and I'll listen attentively!

Regarding the Milestones, the ones you listed are among my very favorites, too, just add "Sahara"!

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Atlantis is good and definitely worth having/hearing but it's not as good as Enlightenment (IMHO). I'm weird I guess, but I really like Fly with the Wind. Jim is right - it's a Tyner/Billy Cobham fireworks show, but it really works IMHO.

Oh, I like it too, very much. I just laugh out loud at how Tyner & Cobham start out at Gonzo and only accelerate from there...talk about a sign of the times! It's funny to me how all that was not only in the air at the time, but highly sought after. It works, yes, but if anybody thought about making a record that sounded like that today, people would be all EEEEEWWWWW....FUSIONY, BASHY! MAKE IT STOP. etc. And that's what I lauh about, how times have changed and what people want out of a "jazz" record has changed as well.

But/And also - William S. Fischer does well on that album too. Very nice, idiomatically reenforcive string arrangements throughout.

Interesting to hear it now, it almost comes across as a "pop" record in terms of production and sound, and spotlights being placed, and all that, but hey, McCoy was breaking out back then, not to be a true pop star, of ocurse, but as a true jazz star. The casual buyer was wanted to hear it, so they made records to accommodate them. This is one of them, and it makes me happy to look back and realize that that's the reason why this record is what it is - an effort to get more McCoy to people who would be interested in hearing More McCoy. It worked!

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I love Hubert Laws' flute playing on Fly With The Wind.

Those Milestones are to me, some of the most exciting jazz of all time, by anyone. I especially like Trident, the trio album with Ron Carter and Elvin Jones--fantastic. Supertrios is way, way up there too.

Focal Point is a sometimes overlooked album, but has excellent compositions and playing by all. I saw that group live with Joe Ford and Ron Bridgewater in the front line. Bridgewater was replaced after that by George Adams, who was often incredible live with Tyner in the several times I saw them live.

In the mid 1970s to early 1980s, Tyner's groups were typically high energy and wonderful live, about the most exciting and best live touring group out there, in my opinion. They toured around the country often, too.

I actually like Inner Voices, especially the two tracks with no voices, which are quite exciting.

Echoes of a Friend on Milestone, his solo piano album, has always been a favorite of mine.

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I know Fly with the Wind has the strings, and from what I gather this works considerably better than a much later album strings album where he plays the music of Bacharach--nobody seems to like that one.

As for "Fly with the Wind" (the piece) my favorite version is the one for big band on The Turning Point.

My own favorite albums:

  • The Real McCoy
  • Expansions
  • Tender Moments
  • Echoes of a Friend
  • Sahara
  • Sama Layuca
  • Super Trios
  • The Turning Point
  • 44th Street Suite
  • Remembering John
  • Soliloquy

And I probably missed some.

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'Sama Layuca' is a good one. As is 'Horizon'. I saw the band not too long after Horizon came out, with the Joe Ford/John Blake front line and it was incendiary.

Yeah, that band with Joe Ford/John Blake was fantastic. I´ll never forget the event when I heard them in March 1980. I just had a bad kind of flu and was reluctant to go to the concert.

March 1980 - Must have been the same tour (or maybe the next one?). I saw them at Scotts as they were heading through London. To this day, I still think it's the finest gig I've ever seen and McCoy's playing was phenomenal. The rest of the band was John Lee on Bass and Wilby Fletcher on drums I think.

Edited by sidewinder

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Lucky me, I saw McCoy with his small groups several times in the 1970s and early 1980s, including once at the Bottom Line in New York on a double bill with Elvin Jones (who had Dave Liebman with him).

One of the very most exciting live jazz performances I have ever seen was when McCoy brought George Adams, Joe Ford, Charles Fambrough and Wilby Fletcher to the Earle, a small club in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in December, 1978. George Adams' tenor sax solo on "Fly With the Wind" was incredible. I thought at the time, "this is what blowing the roof off the place means".

One night earlier, I had seen the Cecil Taylor Unit with Jimmy Lyons in Ann Arbor.

The next month I saw Betty Carter and Roscoe Mitchell (solo alto sax) on back to back nights in Ann Arbor. That was a great era.

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I've got 30-odd Tyner albums from the all stages of his storied career. ' Sama Layuca' was a late addition for me and one I enjoyed immensely. 'New York Reunion' with Joe Henderson/Ron Carter/Al Foster is worth seeking out, Joe Henderson is fearsome on 'Ask Me Now'. The dates with Hutcherson are also strong. For me though, 'Inception' is just wonderful. That title track is just so forceful, and mesmerizing in a Powell-like way.

I saw him in the mid-nineties at the Leeds Jazz Festival (now defunct). He was unaccompanied and gave a spellbinding performance. He'd break into a huge grin after every number. I think we all left that night with huge grins.

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Oh, John Gilmore? Let's put aside Tyner for a second - you will quite possibly want to hear Andrew Hill's Andrew!!! & Paul Bley's Turning Point.

And Pete LaRoca's Turkish Women At The Bath. That's my favorite Gilmore (and some fine Chick Corea). Very unusual sounding date.

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Hm, I might have to eventually re-evaluate those Impulses ... I never really warmed to them very much.

:w

tyner_mccoy_reevaluat_101b.jpg

Edited by felser

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Sadly, I have never seen McCoy in live performance. Something I have missed, and it may never happen.

What is he up to these days, anyway?

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Oh, John Gilmore? Let's put aside Tyner for a second - you will quite possibly want to hear Andrew Hill's Andrew!!! & Paul Bley's Turning Point.

And Pete LaRoca's Turkish Women At The Bath. That's my favorite Gilmore (and some fine Chick Corea). Very unusual sounding date.

As good as 'Basra'. 'Dancing Girls' is stunning, and yes a very spacey feel to the recording, especially LaRoca's drums.

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Last time I saw McCoy was at the Bath International Festival several years ago (2008), he had lost a lot of weight - still playing great though with a lineup that included drummer Eric Gravatt and Joe Lovano.

Edited by sidewinder

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