Sunday, January 8, 2017

MyCoy Tyner's The Real McCoy | Liner notes by Nat Hentoff

Republished with permission.

And beyond that authority, which comes from thorough musicianship, is an incisive individuality of expression. As for Tyner, Coltrane's remark about the clearness of his ideas is so well taken that anyone - whether he knows one chord or one time signature from another - ought to have no problem following the way Tyner's solo here is inexorably built.

"After writing the melody of 'Search for Peace,'" Tyner says, "I chose this title because the song has a tranquil feeling. Tranquil and personal. It's very difficult to verbalize about music; the important thing is what the listener himself gets from the act of listening. But insofar as I can verbalize about this piece, it has to do with a man's submission to God, with the giving over of the self to the universe."

The melody has that sense of inevitability - as if it couldn't have come out any other way - that marks a real melodist. And I think one result of this album will be to underline Tyner's considerable and growing talent as a writer of fresh, durable melodies. His own solo is a model of crystalline serenity - the curve of the line is sketched with just enough sharp•edged weight to etch the mood but is light enough to let the emotion soar.

Similarly Joe Henderson is bath firm and resilient. For me it's an unusually satisfying performance - the essence of spare romanticism.

The struttin’, high-spirited "Blues on the Corner," is McCoy's reminiscence of his boyhood. "When I was growing up in Philadelphia," he says, "some of the kids I knew liked to hang out on the corner. And this is sort of a musical picture of that scene youngsters talking, kidding around, jiving." The theme and the solos have the vividness and spontaneity of the young at observant play as they engage in the rituals of growing up on the urban scene.

Of his colleagues on the session, Tyner underscores the bursting individuality of Henderson and "that sound of his - which goes through the whole range of his instrument. If I had to use one word for Joe's playing, it would be 'mature.' As for Ron Carter, aside from his technique, he has unusual flexibility and everything he plays shows a real, keen intelligence at work. What can I say about Elvin Jones? After six years of working with him in John Coltrane's group, I have no words to describe fully my respect for him as a musician. I can try by mentioning his capacity to go in all kinds of directions. And no matter what the direction, Elvin always gets to the nucleus of what's going on. He molds what's happening to fit what the soloist is doing. And always, no matter how many polyrhythms are in the air, Elvin's time at the bottom stays groovy."

After we finished talking about this album, I asked McCoy in what directions he wanted his music to go from this point on. "I don't think in those terms," he said. "You see, to me living and music are all the same thing. And I keep finding out more about music as I learn more about myself, my environment, about all kinds of different things in life. I play what I live. Therefore, just as I can't predict what kinds of experiences I'm going to have, I can't predict the directions in which my music will go. I just want to write and play my instrument as I feel."

And as McCoy continues to do that, two other observations by John Coltrane will also continue to be true; "McCoy doesn't fall into conventional grooves, and he has taste. He can take anything, no matter how weird, and make it sound beautiful."

Beauty and clarity and strength of individuality. Insofar as it's possible to verbalize about McCoy Tyner's music, those are the key words.

-- Nat Hentoff

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