McCoy Tyner - piano; Azar Lawrence - tenor, soprano saxes; Juni Booth - bass; Howard King - drums; Guillerme Franco - percussion
Powerhouse pianist McCoy Tyner is in superb form on this July 4th set at Carnegie Hall as part of the 1975 Newport Jazz Festival. Accompanied by his touring band at the time, which consisted of saxophonist Azar Lawrence, bassist Junie Booth, drummer Howard King, and percussionist Guillerme Franco, Tyner carries on in the searching spirit he had established as a member of John Coltrane's potent quartet of the '60s. That same conviction and depth of expression is apparent in this incendiary set.
Tyner hits the stage and immediately delves into an exploratory solo piano fusillade that goes on for a full five-and-a-half minutes before he signals the band to enter on the penetrating theme of "Sama Layuca," title track from Tyner's 1974 album on Milestone. Lawrence on soprano sax channels some of the heightened energy of latter day Trane on this adventurous 25-minute excursion. As a kind of breath after that opening intense onslaught, Tyner switches from piano to dulcimer and engages in an intimate and uncharacteristically Indian flavored duet with percussionist Franco on "Mode for Dulcimer," a mellow raga type vehicle that would later appear on Tyner's 1976 Milestone album, Focal Point.
Lawrence switches to tenor sax and digs deep for the quintet's passionate set-closer, "Atlantis," title track of Tyner's other 1974 Milestone release during that highly productive year. The pianist's playing on this 22-minute showcase is typically driving and full of mesmerizing ostinatos and cascading arpeggios. And at one point in the heightened proceedings, he detours into some heady Cecil Taylor inspired flights on the keyboard that might surprise Tyner aficionados. It's a dramatic climax to a potent Newport Jazz Festival set.
A Philadelphia native, McCoy Tyner was born on December 11, 1938, and began studying piano at age 13. Inspired by Bud Powell, he developed quickly and by age 18 was playing alongside co-leaders Benny Golson and Art Farmer in the Jazztet, which released its self-titled debut in 1960. He joined John Coltrane's group later that year, replacing Steve Kuhn on keyboards, and was a mainstay of that groundbreaking quartet for the next five years, alongside bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones. During his incredibly productive tenure in the Coltrane Quartet, Tyner appeared on the saxophonist's important Atlantic albums including Coltrane Jazz, Coltrane Play the Blues, Coltrane's Sound, and My Favorite Things. The potent quartet subsequently recorded a string of classic recordings for the Impulse label, including Live at the Village Vanguard, Impressions, Crescent and Love Supreme. The pianist also appeared on several important Blue Note recordings by saxophonists Wayne Shorter, Stanley Turrentine, and Hank Mobley as well as trumpeters Lee Morgan, Donald Byrd, and Freddie Hubbard. Tyner recorded such important Blue Note albums as 1967's The Real McCoy, 1968's Expansions, and 1970's Extensions. He continued to record prolifically as a leader through the '70s, '80s, and '90s in solo, trio, small group, and big band settings. At age 72, the grand master of piano remains on the scene, touring regularly with bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Eric Kamau Gravatt while also collaborating on record with a whole host of artists ranging from saxophonists Gary Bartz, Joe Lovano, and Ravi Coltrane (John's son) to guitarists John Scofield, Derek Trucks, and Marc Ribot to tap dance sensation Savion Glover. (Milkowski)