Pianist McCoy Tyner is the anti-Miles and the anti-(modern) Jarrett. Not that he is their competitor, but that Tyner applies himself to the piano in such a converse manner. Where Miles Davis let the silence between notes speak, Tyner fills almost all the space. The new millenium version of Keith Jarrett, recovering from chronic fatigue syndrome, has a most economical touch, whereas Tyner plays like a soccer mom’s SUV on game day. The Philadelphia born musician was a neighbor to Bud Powell and was blessed with the piano chair in John Coltrane’s classic quartet. McCoy absorbed Coltrane’s sheets of sound approach and since has tossed on the blankets, pillowcases, and the whole damn bed.
His music prowess cannot be questioned. This solo session is dedicated to the legends of the 20th century piano, from W.C. Handy to Earl Hines, and today’s stars, Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea. Tyner doesn’t change style to cover Ellington or Bill Evans. He simple adapts Tyner to the melody and this yields mixed results. Tyner’s Thelonious Monk tribute “Pannonica” avoids Monk angles for McCoy’s stride piano and the minimalist Bill Evans’ song “My Foolish Heart” gets the maximal-ist treatment. I guess you listen to a McCoy Tyner record to hear McCoy’s music.
Naturally the highlights come on Tyner originals like “Happy Days” (dedicated to Jarrett) and “You Taught My Heart To Sing” both jazz standards and “Rio” (for Chick Corea). He also warms up W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” and Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’” with a high-energy vigor that marks his attack. I’d love to hear an entire recording of Tyner playing Stride and Swing piano.