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A Fireside Chat with McCoy Tyner

By Published: October 29, 2003

MT: Yeah, well, the thing is, Fred, I am the kind of person where I don't wait for the signal to do things. I was approached by Tommy LiPuma, who is a great producer and he did Natalie Cole's Unforgettable, but he was also President of Impulse! Records, which has a tremendous jazz roster. My first recording was on Impulse! and Coltrane's. Our history goes pretty far back. But anyway, I did two records for him. The Infinity record, I used Michael Brecker on that. He (LiPuma) told me, "Would you like to do an album with an orchestra?" And I said, "Yes, of course. What would you like to do?" He mentioned Burt, but he said that I could do something else and I had recorded a lot of Duke Ellington's music and Monk and he mentioned Burt and I said, "That sounds interesting," because I remember Burt and Dionne Warwick were doing things together. The only thing we have to do is find someone to arrange the songs and John Clayton, of course, did the orchestration. John came to New York. We sat down and we talked about it. We took "The Look of Love," which was something that I liked and "Alfie." Sonny Rollins had gotten a hit, I think in the '60s with "Alfie." We did "A House Is Not a Home," which was something I like anyhow. I really liked that song, even before I recorded it. We took what I call the best of Burt for me and recorded it. Some of his songs wouldn't have worked for me, but those songs did and Burt told me, he said, "I was wondering when you would get to do my tunes." He really liked it. He said, "Thanks a lot." He's a nice guy. But the thing is I don't do sequels. I did that because it was something different and I'll do that. Just like to get into voices. I did an album ( Looking Out ) in 1984 with Phyllis Hyman, Carlos Santana, Stanley Clarke, and Tower of Power horns. I do things. Now and then, I will do things and I'm not trying to trick anybody. I just can't be inhibited in certain areas. I just like to do different things.

FJ: Let's touch on your new release on the Telarc label, McCoy Tyner with Stanley Clarke and Al Foster.

MT: The new record on Telarc, it's Al Foster on drums and Stanley Clarke on bass, upright and electric. I really like the record a lot. I mean, these guys really rose to the occasion. Stanley is from my hometown of Philadelphia, so we've known each other for quite a while. And of course, Al is just amazing. He's unbelievable. He's so sensitive. So it was such a fun thing. We did a lot of variety on it. I really love it. I really love it a lot. I just keep trying to do things and I hope I am not misunderstood when I do things because I think the people that write about this music have to understand that. I really loved the orchestra record ( What the World Needs Now ). It was something that hadn't been done by that many people. I think that's why you put handcuffs on when you don't have to.

FJ: Because of the monumental innovations that you were a part of with Coltrane, the bar for McCoy Tyner is high.

MT: Yeah, yeah. You see, Fred, any dedicated artist, although everybody thinks differently, I think that if you get to the point where you have to do the same thing over and over again, you know, I play some of my songs that I had written years ago, but I try to do them, I do them differently because I feel differently about them now. It is like having a relationship with your children. They grow up and they become like adults. You have a different kind of relationship with them. I feel that way about my songs. I just think that it's important to take a chance to do things. To take chances because that way you will stay fresh as an artist. I think that is the whole idea, to be able to identify with what is going on around you and to see what's happening. It is like using electronics. I am not an electronic guy. I have a synthesizer here, but I use it to write on not practice, because I don't have a room for a nine-foot Steinway in my place. It has its place.

FJ: And the future?

MT: I think this summer I am going to Europe and taking maybe Al and Stanley. Stanley writes for movies so he might not be able to make it. That will probably be around June or July. I will be going right to Yoshi's and that gig is comprised of Billy Higgins, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Joe Lovano on saxophone, and Charnett Moffett on bass and myself. We did one week last year at Yoshi's and that was very, very well received and so we're going to do that again. I think Stanley and Al will be playing with me at Yoshi's. We will be debuting that music at Yoshi's.

Visit McCoy Tyner on the web at .

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