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McCoy Tyner: Inception

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McCoy Tyner should receive as much attention as Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson and even Bill Evans. For some reason, he doesn't, and I have no idea why not. Tyner's recordings are as inventive, as rich and as stunning as the other three piano leaders. Of course, Peterson and Monk came up in the late 1940s, and Evans came up in the 1950s, so they had a jump on him. Tyner's trio leadership career didn't begin until the early 1960s, but I can't think of another pianist who best reflects the '60s than Tyner, with his modal turmoil, distinct chord voicings and bounce. Tyner can sound delicate but he also can unleash his fingers in a thundering stampede that's thrilling and cohesive.

Best known as a member of the John Coltrane Quartet in the '60s, Tyner also recorded more than 70 leadership albums starting with Inception. Recorded in January 1962, Inception featured Tyner backed by bassist Art Davis and drummer Elvin Jones. Four of the six songs recorded were written by Tyner: Inception, Blues for Gwen, Sunset and Effendi. The remaining two are standards: There Is No Greater Love and Speak Low.

According to the album's liner notes, Blues for Gwen was named for Tyner's sister, while Sunset was a title suggested by Tyner's wife, Aisha, because the piece “brought to her mind an impression of nature, and because it's a reflective ballad. Sunset seemed the logical title."

The music on this album is extraordinary from start to finish. It's robust, beautiful, tender, assertive, lush, penetrating and determined. His technique of using modal chords and scales to get his point across is framed smartly by Jones on drums. On many of Tyner's albums, there's nothing mannered about him or cliched. His soul is always exposed and his sound is distinctly original. I have all of his solo albums and they are exquisite. I'll be posting about other favorites in the future, but for those unfamiliar, the best place to start with Tyner is at the beginning.

JazzWax clips: Here's the full album...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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