As McCoy Tyner approached his 69th birthday on Dec. 11, he could look back with a profound sense of pride on an incredibly rich recorded legacy that includes over 80 albums as a leader with Blue Note, Milestone, Impulse!, Columbia, Telarc and other assorted labels, and at least a dozen timeless, hugely influential titles with the John Coltrane Quartet, including Crescent, Live at the Village Vanguard, Ballads and A Love Supreme.
Add to that impressive list a whole string of important Blue Note sessions that Tyner made during the mid-1960s with the likes of Wayne Shorter (Juju, Night Dreamer, Soothsayer), Joe Henderson (Inner Urge, Page One, In ’n’ Out), Grant Green (Matador, Solid), Lee Morgan (Tom Cat, Delightfulee), Hank Mobley (A Caddy for Daddy, Slice of the Top, Straight No Filter), Lou Donaldson (Lush Life, Sweet Slumber) and Freddie Hubbard (Open Sesame, Ready for Freddie) and you’ve got the résumé of a jazz legend.
While career retrospectives are generally reserved for retirement parties, Tyner is by no means ready to hang it up. On the contrary, there’s a flurry of activity surrounding Tyner these days. After 50 years as a working musician, he finally has his own imprint (McCoy Tyner Music, under the auspices of Half Note Records), which he launched in September with the release of Quartet. A live outing recorded on New Year’s Eve 2006 at Yoshi’s in Oakland, Calif., it features a potent crew of Joe Lovano on saxophone, Christian McBride on bass and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums. On seven spirited tracks, Tyner demonstrates that he is still very much in command of his fabled technique, dropping in brawny left-hand statements while summoning up cascading right-hand flourishes on his preferred Steinway grand. It’s a quality that was evident on the Philadelphia native’s debut recording as a leader, 1962’s Inceptions.
In the liner notes to that Impulse! trio date with bassist Art Davis and drummer Elvin Jones, Coltrane assesses the pianist’s extraordinary gifts: “First there is his melodic inventiveness and along with that the clarity of his ideas. He also gets a very personal sound from his instrument. In addition, McCoy has an exceptionally well developed sense of form, both as a soloist and accompanist. Invariably, in our group, he will take a tune and build his own structure for it. He is always looking for the most personal way of expressing himself. And finally, McCoy has taste. He can take anything, no matter how weird, and make it sound...
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