Pianist McCoy Tyner, after being in one of the alltime great jazz quartets in history with saxman John Coltrane, drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Jimmy Garrison (1961-1965), has continued exploring the outer limits of his instrument’s potential. Now, at 70, he’s still experimenting and defining the essence of “modern jazz.”
Guitars, with bassist Ron Carter and drummer Jack DeJohnette, pairs Tyner with five exceptional guitarists in a 14-track 74:20-long manifesto of sheer exploratory delight. Marc Ribot, John Scofield, Bela Fleck (who plucks banjo on “My Favorite Things,” a tune Tyner and ‘Trane famously reinvented 48 years ago) and Derek Trucks are the string-men. And there’s no shortage of highlights.
Trucks goes way beyond his rock history by furiously improvising on the 19th Century chestnut “Greensleeves” and “Slapback Blues.” Ribot goes all-out atonal on some esoteric piano/guitar duets.
Scofield goes the traditional route on two Tyner classics—“Mr. P.C.” and “Blues On The Corner.” Admittedly nervous, awed and apprehensive about playing with Tyner, Carter and DeJohnette—legends all—Scofield scores early and often with a blitz of jagged lines.
Fleck is Fleck. He’s always been a mountain climber, cross-pollinating genres with a master magician touch. Tyner, never too old to learn, performs Fleck originals “Amberjack” and “Trade Winds,” marking his recording debut with that jangly banjo sound.
It all works: beautiful, complex and deeply satisfying.
The package comes complete with a second disc: a three-hour in-studio look at this rare meeting-of-the-minds, even offering the viewer the choice of multiple angles of the individual artists and group performances.
“I think there is always something to do that you haven’t done exactly,” explains Tyner. There’s always that: the idea of what else can I do? No two days are the same. I look forward to tomorrow.
In A Word: Progressive