McCoy Tyner

Guitars

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Although McCoy Tyner has never been well known for playing with guitarists, there have been precedents. Technically on the electric mandolin and amplified guitar, John Abercrombie was part of the 4 X 4 sessions, acoustic guitarist Earl Klugh was a participant on the Inner Voices recording, Ted Dunbar was in the group for Asante, and Carlos Santana joined Tyner for the ill-conceived album Looking Out. Tyner prominently accompanied Grant Green for legendary Blue Note label classics. So this may not be a new thing, but certainly something the great pianist has been removed from in general terms. Guitars pairs Tyner and his reunited bulletproof trio of bassist Ron Carter and drummer Jack DeJohnette with contemporary performers Marc Ribot, John Scofield, banjoist Béla Fleck, Derek Trucks, and Bill Frisell. The results are mixed no matter which string player you favor, with Tyner's role as a legend surely intimidating any of his disciples to a degree. But for these recordings, the sound and feeling of the end product is clearly decipherable. Ribot especially seems out of place, resorting to power chords during "Passion Dance," but rebounding on the soulful version of "500 Miles" and rallying on the peaceful but electrified "Improvisation 1." With Derek Trucks, Tyner's basic "Slapback Blues" is treated as the title suggests, while the 3/4 "Greensleeves" is typical, but the raga approach that Trucks emphasizes in his band would have been a welcome choice. Scofield is clearly the most comfortable with Tyner, swinging easily through "Mr. P.C." and playfully skirting away from the line of "Blues on the Corner." On his three tracks, Fleck is surprisingly the most compatible, working with a deep modal Middle Eastern feel on "Tradewinds," flying fleet and much quicker than the pianist during "Amberjack," and evoking "My Favorite Things" in a quaint mood. The two pieces with Frisell merge together as one in an homage to the world guitarist Boubacar Traore, with "Boubacar" meditative before the rhythm section explodes, then the loose "Baba Drame" works as an extension. Whereas Tyner's playing these days is beyond reproach, and the contributions of Carter and DeJohnette are always welcome, there's an aura of true amity on most of the tracks, but an imbalanced awkwardness on others. An accompanying DVD with various camera angles provides perspective and insight into how this music was created, but also where Tyner's giant visage might dwarf some of these plectrists, and not others. It's an interesting slice in time, but not a definitive recording in Tyner's legendary and lengthy musical career.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
blue highlight denotes track pick