Friday, May 28, 2010

McCoy Tyner - Mosaic Select 25 (Mosaic, 2007)

After a very successful tenure with the great John Coltrane Quartet from 1961-1965, pianist McCoy Tyner struck out on his own, signing with Blue Note records and putting together his own groups and albums. Things started off very well, with the classic albums The Real McCoy and Tender Moments being released in 1967. However, as the sixties waned, Tyner's record sales and performance opportunities grew fewer, to the point where he was driving a cab in New York to make ends meet. The music on this three disc set contains the final four albums of Tyner's first stay with Blue Note: Expansions, Extensions, Asante and Cosmos. It's kind of a mystery why these albums never gained much attention the first time around, as they are filled with exciting and thoughtful music, with Tyner accompanied by the likes of Gary Bartz, Woody Shaw, Wayne Shorter and many others. The Expansions LP, taking up most of disc one, is open ended spiritual hard bop, clearly influenced with the exploratory music he had played with Coltrane, but much more centered in the hard-bop mainstream. Bartz, Shorter and Shaw make for an awesome front line, with "Vision" and "Song of Happiness" taking lengthy journeys into spiritual modality. The Cosmos session was the most experimental, and that is probably why the music was withheld until 1974. The core trio of Tyner with Herbie Lewis on bass and Freddie Watts on drums is joined by a small string section that swirls and slides around the percussive trio. The Extensions session, making up the latter half of disc two is excellent, featuring the explosive "Message from the Nile" and "Survival Blues." Anchored by Ron Carter and Elvin Jones, the music is relentlessly propulsive, and with Bartz and Shorter returning to the front line and Alice Coltrane adding showers of sparks from her harp, the music is memorable and very exciting. Disc three wraps up the remaining music with the string-free tracks of Cosmos and Asante, which are interesting for adding extra percussion, guitar and wordless vocals. After leaving Blue Note, Tyner's fortunes thankfully revived with excellent (and popular) albums like Sahara and the torrid live LP's Atlantis and Enlightenment. These albums consolidated the music he made on these under-appreciated Blue Note albums and solidified his standing as a jazz legend. Mosaic Select 25 - amazon.com

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