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Album Review

Although McCoy Tyner has never been well known for playing with guitarists, there have been precedents. Technically on the electric mandolin and amplified guitar, John Abercrombie was part of the 4 X 4 sessions, acoustic guitarist Earl Klugh was a participant on the Inner Voices recording, Ted Dunbar was in the group for Asante, and Carlos Santana joined Tyner for the ill-conceived album Looking Out. Tyner prominently accompanied Grant Green for legendary Blue Note label classics. So this may not be a new thing, but certainly something the great pianist has been removed from in general terms. Guitars pairs Tyner and his reunited bulletproof trio of bassist Ron Carter and drummer Jack DeJohnette with contemporary performers Marc Ribot, John Scofield, banjoist Béla Fleck, Derek Trucks, and Bill Frisell. The results are mixed no matter which string player you favor, with Tyner's role as a legend surely intimidating any of his disciples to a degree. But for these recordings, the sound and feeling of the end product is clearly decipherable. Ribot especially seems out of place, resorting to power chords during "Passion Dance," but rebounding on the soulful version of "500 Miles" and rallying on the peaceful but electrified "Improvisation 1." With Derek Trucks, Tyner's basic "Slapback Blues" is treated as the title suggests, while the 3/4 "Greensleeves" is typical, but the raga approach that Trucks emphasizes in his band would have been a welcome choice. Scofield is clearly the most comfortable with Tyner, swinging easily through "Mr. P.C." and playfully skirting away from the line of "Blues on the Corner." On his three tracks, Fleck is surprisingly the most compatible, working with a deep modal Middle Eastern feel on "Tradewinds," flying fleet and much quicker than the pianist during "Amberjack," and evoking "My Favorite Things" in a quaint mood. The two pieces with Frisell merge together as one in an homage to the world guitarist Boubacar Traore, with "Boubacar" meditative before the rhythm section explodes, then the loose "Baba Drame" works as an extension. Whereas Tyner's playing these days is beyond reproach, and the contributions of Carter and DeJohnette are always welcome, there's an aura of true amity on most of the tracks, but an imbalanced awkwardness on others. An accompanying DVD with various camera angles provides perspective and insight into how this music was created, but also where Tyner's giant visage might dwarf some of these plectrists, and not others. It's an interesting slice in time, but not a definitive recording in Tyner's legendary and lengthy musical career. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Customer Reviews

buy it, enjoy it, the real surprises here are Fleck and Trucks

...and, don't get me wrong, Marc Ribot is my favorite guitarist, but Bela Fleck (Banjo!) and Derek Trucks are just a revelation here. I wouldn't have thought to bring them to a session that puts Scofield or Frisell with Tyner, yet they do much more than meet expectations, they get past playing it safe and by the numbers, they play with feeling. Fleck is completely in the mode on Trade Winds and My Favorite Things. Think about THAT for a moment - John Coltrane made that tune his, the Quartet owned it, and yet Tyner and Fleck are on it, Fleck could hardly have interpreted it better. Derek Trucks is also right with Tyner on Greensleeves, and keep in mind again, Coltrane and Tyner made that tune theirs too.

Scofield and Frisell are their usual professional selves, they know how to play with Carter, DeJohnette and Tyner, but to me, they don't rise above the way Fleck and Trucks did. Ribot is fine on Passion Dance, yet it is almost as if he's too much of wildcard to be completely comfortable in this format.

A great album? I don't know, however I found a lot to appreciate here. Tyner just keeps on giving us good music, and I like the fact that he brought in some younger guys to work out a couple of the Coltrane classic- it worked.

the real McCoy

it's tyner. enough said.

Simply excellent

Never in my wildest dreams could I have envisioned an album this special: McCoy Tyner w/guitars and banjo. It doesn't even seem real. A month late on a N.Y. Times review from early October '08--maybe wouldn't have come across this gem for many years. This is why I never throw away old Arts &. Leisure sections...when would they ever expire?


Born: December 11, 1938 in Philadelphia, PA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

It is to McCoy Tyner's great credit that his career after John Coltrane has been far from anti-climatic. Along with Bill Evans, Tyner has been the most influential pianist in jazz of the past 50 years, with his chord voicings being adopted and utilized by virtually every younger pianist. A powerful virtuoso and a true original (compare his playing in the early '60s with anyone else from the time), Tyner (like Thelonious Monk) has not altered his style all that much from his early days but he has...
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