Friday, June 16, 2006

revelations #2: mccoy tyner

Having heard McCoy Tyner mostly in the Coltrane Quartet, I grossly under-rated him. I think that it was during the 2004 BBC Coltrane documentary that my mind started to change: Tyner played for the camera for a few seconds. I was blown away. A few months ago, I took the next logical step and bought McCoy Tyner's Sahara, based on the estimable Brian Olewnick's 5-star AllMusic review. I can't vouch for the historical and contextual comments, but the album description and appreciation is spot-on.

The opener, "Ebony Queen," is one of the most intense peformances I've ever heard. They go from 0 to 1000 in about 30 seconds and miraculously manage to stay there for the next 9 minutes. Sonny Fortune is still wailing as the track fades out. Hearing this group live must have been an indescribably physical experience.

The follow-up, "A Prayer For My Family," is solo piano, but barely less gripping. Tyner's virtuosity is on full display here: his florid, swirling ruminations are more prayer-meeting fervour than zen meditation (an agitated kind of zen is reserved for the koto playing on "The Valley Of Life"). Even counting God himself (although this status doesn't totally protect him from insults), is there a more virtuosic jazz pianist?