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In Remembrance of: Benjamin Henry, Eva Burrell, Eric Paul Jackson, Bertha Smith, Leon Guitry, Jackie Hall
By Richard Henry on March 13, 2010

McCoy Tyner is one of the most important jazz pianists of the twentieth century. His modern chord voicings brought innovation to an already growing genre. Even today jazz music is still influenced by his pioneering efforts in the world of piano jazz voicings.

In 1967, he released the album The Real McCoy featuring bassist Ron Carter, drummer Elvin Jones and saxophonist Joe Henderson. With 5 tracks, the quality of the playing and sound is sure to delight music listeners.

An exhilarating fast dance that never loses its strength is what comes to mind when listening to the album’s first track titled Passion Dance. This piece is a modal tune that displays the extremely skilled virtuosity of McCoy Tyner and Joe Henderson. McCoy Tyner flies through the keys through different tonalities. His playing seems percussive at times giving a foot stomping feel as he makes a statement through his marvelous playing. The playing of McCoy Tyner is like a hurricane but graceful. Joe Henderson produces amazing effects on the saxophone, really utilizing the freedom that modal pieces allow for.

The second track titled Contemplation starts off with a moderate tempo as you hear a solemn, heartfelt tune of perseverance and the willingness to fight on. Elvin Jones keeps a good beat to allow for the feel that the title suggests. Fourth chords are heard in the left hand with powerful force and conviction with occasional Asian style improvisation in the right hand. McCoy Tyner is still dazzling in this slower style piece. The melody speaks with brilliance which is played on saxophone that cries out that one will not give up.

In Four by Five which is the album’s third track, the beginning can be described as very accented on the piano which plays on the downbeats and upbeats. The saxophone and piano work very well together in the beginning, with their opening rhythmic statement. Joe Henderson can improvise in any direction with seemingly endless creative ideas. The piano solo has charisma and character as it once again flies through other tonalities in stunning fashion. McCoy Tyner loves to use minor sixth chords in his playing which is evident in this piece. This one will definitely get you moving with its fast pace.

The magical right hand run and chords in the fourth track Search for Peace along with the sustained effect of the bass notes of Ron Carter in the beginning creates an interesting texture that leaves you pondering what will happen next. Joe Henderson is playing the saxophone with a nice, calming tone with the piano doubling on the melody notes. This calm, soothing piece still speaks to the listener as if singing a lullaby. Peacefulness of the mind and spirit is heard in this piece, promoting healing and release of built in tension in everyday life. The major pentatonic notes by McCoy Tyner has a nice swing to them in one phrase. Towards the end, the flow of the music picks up only briefly.

McCoy Tyner still brings the characteristic fourth chords played in this blues tune and swift improvisation in the album’s last track Blues on the Corner. A nice, cool stroll on a sidewalk or street is the feeling that is projected from this tune. The sound of the bass player Ron Carter can be felt and heard with very good resonance which helps the character of this piece really come out. The upbeat triplet motif in the melody helps this piece tell a story. McCoy Tyner plays very fast at times but is never overbearing on the weight he imposes on the keys.

This album has intense feelings of joy, sorrow, peace and happiness. The awesome skills of these musicians is truly worth a listen. McCoy is a great artist and an inspiration to not only pianists but to all jazz musicians. In this album, he crafts his phrases and lines with a lot of care with a wide range of ideas that speak from his musical voice. This quartet speaks as one, with each bringing their own talent and experience to the table. I recommend this album.

The Real McCoy
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