Friday, August 31, 2007

McCoy Tyner: Live at Newport

This, like pretty much all of McCoy's first solo releases on Impulse!, is great fodder for debate amongst jazz heads. One most of the tracks on his Impulse! albums McCoy often sounds like a different player than the propulsive dynamo who occupied the piano bench for Coltrane.

His first few sides were piano trio line-ups and he finally started asserting himself, through his own compostions, on 1963's Today and Tomorrow...

Live at Newport has some great playing, though mainly in the hardbop style, but an even better back story. Let me quote from Stephen Erlewine's All Music Guide review:
"Live at Newport was the first live recording McCoy Tyner led...According to Willis Conover's original liner notes, Tyner was worn out from playing Montreal the night before, and he was paired with three musicians he'd never played with before (trumpeter Clark Terry, alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano, and bassist Bob Cranshaw), two of who were using borrowed instruments. Given such chaotic circumstances, it's not surprising that the quintet (also featuring drummer Mickey Roker, a former colleague of Tyner's) chose to play two standards, plus Tyner's "Monk's Blues," Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody 'n' You," and the improvised opening jam, "Newport Romp." What is a surprise is that not only does the group hold together, but they excel. They sound empathetic, as if they've played many times before, yet there are enough sparks to signal that they're still unsure of what the other will play. The results are thoroughly compelling and unpredictable, even when it's just a Tyner showcase, like "Monk's Blues." Essentially a solo showcase with support from Cranshaw and Roker, Tyner really pushes on this number, beginning it as a Monk homage and pushing it to continually inventive territory. It's the riskiest playing on the record from Tyner, but just because Live at Newport isn't as risky as his work with Coltrane during the early '60s doesn't mean it's limp or complacent...accessible but stimulating, engaging and vibrant from beginning to end."

Erlewine clearly loves this record. I like it a lot.

McCoy Tyner - Monk's Blues and Woody'n You
from Live at Newport