McCoy Tyner: Guitars (2008)

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McCoy Tyner: Guitars
"Music is like a mirror of your soul. You just play and let it all happen." McCoy Tyner says this toward the end of his CD/DVD release Guitars, a meeting with a diverse lineup of guitarists for vibrant interpretations of contemporary tunes and classics.

Marc Ribot imbues Tyner's "Passion Dance" with a dynamic edginess, delivering relentless, careening octaves and fiery distortion. And as incendiary as Ribot is on "Passion Dance," he's just as cool and blue on "500 Miles." Although not a guitarist, banjo master Bela Fleck is certainly family. Fleck stands tall with his stringed brethren, playing his tunes "Trade Winds" and the swinging "Amberjack" with passion and fluidity, stamping the sessions with his singular technique. No Tyner work is complete without an acknowledgement of John Coltrane: The venerable John Scofield lends his silkiness to a smoking version of "Mr. P.C."; Fleck pays clever tribute to Tyner on "My Favorite Things" by plucking the melody on his banjo in a way that echoes Tyner's piano style; Derek Trucks, the comparative baby in the family, plays a beautiful rendition of "Greensleeves" and Bill Frisell's "Boubacar," a haunting duet, is a natural fit with its elegiac, Trane-like overtones.

Guitars illustrates Tyner's versatility as he meshes effortlessly with each of the guitar firebrands without compromising his singular voice, as definitive as ever. And although he still sounds fantastic, playing jazz would always sound effortless if one had Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette in the band. Carter, whose rhythmic capabilities remain unrivaled, provides his usual perfect foundations while DeJohnette can thrash like a madman or apply perfect whispering cymbal accents on a ballad.

Guitars also includes a DVD featuring rehearsals, performances and other moments filmed with hand-held and stationary cameras. The sound quality is sometimes muffled (in the case of the opening to the excellent "Contemplation," with Frisell, it's annoying) and some of the gems are mined peripherally instead of with sit-down interviews. There are endearing moments, though, when one sees the personalities behind the music. Scofield pacing around the studio during a playback like an expectant parent in a waiting room; Ribot rocking back and forth while playing and cradling his axe like a child or Tyner sitting at the piano with the thankful expression of someone who, despite all that he's seen and heard, has been pleasantly surprised by something new.

Track Listing: Improvisation 2; Passion Dance; 500 Miles; Mr. P.C.; Blues on the Corner; Improvisation I; Trade Winds; Amberjack; My Favorite Things; Slapback Blues; Greensleeves; Contemplation; Boubacar; Baba Drame.

Personnel: cCoy Tyner: piano; Ron Carter: bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums; Marc Ribot: guitar (1-3, 6); John Scofield: guitar (4, 5); Bela Fleck: banjo (7-9); Derek Trucks: guitar (10, 11); Bill Frisell: guitar (12-14).

Record Label: Half Note Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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