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Flux Classic Jazz Revisited

McCoy Tyner - The Real McCoy

McCoy Tyner -//- The Real McCoy – [BLUE NOTE, 1965]

This was the first of 6 albums McCoy Tyner recorded for Blue Note records in the late 60s and early 70s. His earlier records for Impulse (Inception, A Night of Ballads and Blues, etc.) were generally more conservative recordings in the piano trio format. But on Real McCoy he went for the explosive, wide open modal sound of the 60s Coltrane quartet.

Tyner had played with Elvin Jones for over five years in Coltrane’s group and by this point they were joined at the musical hip; as usual, Jones is a polyrhythmic monster on “Passion Dance” and “Four by Five”. Joe Henderson had played in front of Tyner and Jones several times, including the classic quartet date Inner Urge (also on Blue Note); this is among his best playing of the 60s, along with Larry Young’s Unity. His mixture of mainstream playing and wild avant-gardisms is on perfect display. Ron Carter provides a strong, flexible anchor. McCoy’s playing would get denser and heavier over the next few years, but his powerful sound (dark, left hand chords and fast, unpredictable right hand lines) is well featured here.

All five original compositions are classics. Coltrane didn’t record many of Tyner’s pieces, so the pianist’s style as a writer give this album a distinctly different flavor from the Coltrane group despite the Tyner-Jones pairing. “Passion Dance” and “Four by Five” are intense modal workouts, “Contemplation” and “Search for Peace” are haunting ballads, and “Blues on the Corner” sounds just like the title.

The Real McCoy isn’t as intense as some of his early 70s recordings for Milestone records (Sahara, Enlightenment) but it sets the tone for them. With the possible exception of Extensions with Wayne Shorter and Gary Bartz, it is the best of his Blue Note albums. If you like the more intense, wild moments of the ’63-’64 Coltrane quartet, the Real McCoy is essential.

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