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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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Crotchet
McCoy Tyner with Stanley Clarke and Al Foster

Telarc Jazz CD-83488

 

 

 


1. Trane-like
2. Once Upon a Time
3. Never Let Me Go
4. I Want to Tell You 'Bout That
5. Will You Still Be Mine
6. Goin' Way Blues
7. In the Tradition Of
8. The Night Has a Thousand Eyes
9. Carriba
10. Memories
11. I Want to Tell You 'Bout That (Acoustic version - alternate take)

McCoy Tyner (piano)
Stanley Clarke (acoustic and electric bass)
Al Foster (drums)

It's a sad fact that many of the jazz world's most inspired musicians begin to take their talents for granted and let their standards slip. Whether by covering pop songs to make few extra quid, or by delving so deep into drink and drugs that productivity slows to a halt, jazz has seen its fair share of geniuses fading into nothingness.

It's refreshing, then, to hear McCoy Tyner sound as great as he ever did. Still widely seen as a cutting edge performer, his recent years have been crammed full of diverse and original projects - adding his touch to Burt Bacharach tunes, exploring the world of Latin music, reinventing popular standards and a good deal more besides. And, despite the hordes of exciting new bands at this year's London Jazz Festival, it's Tyner's appearance that's being hailed as the highlight of the entire show.

After listening to this wonderful album, this doesn't surprise me at all. Tyner meets all the criteria of a first class jazz pianist: he's complex, but also accessible; emotional, but often understated; and virtuosic, whilst keeping sight of the overall mood of the music. The opening track, Trane-Like, transports us back to his work with Coltrane in the early to mid 1960s, and reminds us what he brought to those massively influential works. Mixing hypnotic chordal statements, reminiscent of A Love Supreme, with the kind of direct, staccato melodies found on Giant Steps, the tune provides a great introduction as a microcosm of this early period.

But Tyner is far from being stuck in the past; the sheer scope and depth of this work is, in itself, an outstanding achievement. From the beautiful ballad, Never Let Me Go, to the well-known standard, Will You Still Me Mine, to the funky groove of I Want to Tell You 'Bout That, Tyner sounds completely at ease adapting to various musical directions. One of most absorbing tracks on this wide-ranging work, in fact, is inspired not by the traditions of jazz but by those of Brazilian dance music. With its catchy melody and playful rhythms, Caribba brings outs the core of Tyner's talents - the ability to build to a strong melodic base, before launching off into blistering solos, rich in harmonic complexities.

In a trio, of course, one can't rely on a single musician to make it work; collective brilliance is necessary under such a tight focus.

Thankfully, Tyner is not let down by acclaimed virtuosos, Stanley Clarke and Al Foster. Clarke's rich, resonant bass is the driving force behind much of the work, whether in the form of groovy slap-bass or a more traditional 'walking' approach. His solos, likewise, are reason enough to get hold of this album as soon as possible. Technically assured, emotionally deep and performed with such outstanding delicacy, it is instantly clear that Clarke possesses a rare and genuine talent.

As, of course, does Foster, who, throughout each style, demonstrates an astonishing sensitivity. Holding back when necessary, he lets the others take centre stage; but when tension builds and the music demands it, he's prepared to break out to into powerful performances.

I've always felt that trios are the true test of the jazz musician. Get them wrong and the music sounds bland, sparse and uninspired. Get them right and there's nothing more elegant, stylish and all-round impressive.

In case it isn't already clear, Tyner's got it right.

Robert Gibson



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