McCoy Tyner has justifiably been heralded as one of the most important jazz pianists of the past 50 years, both for his seminal work with the classic John Coltrane Quartet in the 1960s and for the four decades of consistently exhilarating work as a leader that followed. But while his heavily percussive style, unique chord voicings and the sheer emotional force of his playing have influenced countless followers, he has seldom been appreciated for his contributions as a composer. That's beginning to change a bit, however, with the SF Jazz Collective's 2009 Tyner tribute and New York pianist Peter Zak 's Blues on the Corner: The Music of McCoy Tyner.
Zak is a top-flight modern mainstream player who appears regularly with respected artists like Ryan Kisor, Walt Weiskopf and Jim Snidero. He is wise enough not to try to mimic the raw power of Tyner's style; he has a more lyrical and restrained, but still hard swinging, approach. But Zak and his impressive working trio (Paul Gill on bass and Quincy Davis on drums) capture the spirit of Tyner's music on eight tunes drawn from throughout his long career. The diversity and energy of the selections, ranging from old-school bebop to searing, avant-leaning explorations to unabashedly beautiful ballads give testament to Tyner's breadth as a composer.
Highlights include the bouncy blues of the title track, Zak's whirlwind post-bop playing on the explosive "May Street," the bowing prowess of Gill on "Three Flowers" and the sense of playfulness the entire trio brings to the lively "Man from Tanganyika." The lovely, expressive ballad, "All My Yesterdays," given a thoughtful treatment here, should serve as an antidote to those who still view Tyner simply as Coltrane's fiery foil. The lone Zak original, "The Camel," is an edgy, forward-looking number that fits in well with the overall Tyner theme.
Peter Zak and his trio have made a fine album that shines new light on a too-often neglected aspect of McCoy Tyner's legacy.
Blues on the Corner; Three Flowers; Man from Tanganyika; Sunset; May Street; Ballad for Aisha; The Camel; All My Yesterdays; Peresina.
Peter Zak: piano; Paul Gill: bass; Quincy Davis: drums.
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