The History of The Albums – n°360
If the second half of the 60's overshadowed Jazz because of Pop Rock, that doesn't mean that some legends were not born there. Pianist McCoy Tyner is the perfect definition of a crucial influence of this period but also afterwards for modern Jazz. In my opinion, McCoy Tyner is even more than that, he is without question one of the greatest pianists in the history of Jazz, just like Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Art Tatum, Bill Evans, Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson, or even Herbie Hancock, without having the same popularity, nor the same myth. Yet McCoy Tyner was simply out of this world. He excelled because of his distinctive personality, his technical innovations, and his vision of the game that placed him among the exceptions who forced others to sit down and learn from him. With his hypnotic aura, McCoy Tyner handled elegance and purity with such mastery that rarely have I felt such comfort, such beauty when listening to a jazz record. I will even say that he is perhaps the most elegant pianist of all time. Sincerely, it transcends me so much that it compensates systematically when its author offers us more forgettable works. Contextually, McCoy Tyner was not as famous as Herbie Hancock or Chick Corea, but it is necessary to specify that they drew some of their fundamentals from the former. For those who don't know, we are referring to absolutely important references in the history of jazz. Before becoming an accomplished leader and frontman, McCoy Tyner made a name for himself by working with John Coltrane as a valuable sideman, an essential element in the quartet's success. After this fluctuating adventure, McCoy Tyner first made an indelible mark with The Real McCoy, one of the masterpieces of the Post-Bop period.
Born in Philadelphia in 1938, McCoy Tyner fell in love with the piano on the advice of his mother during his teenage years. He started playing professionally in the 50's, but it was only when he had the opportunity to join Art Farmer and Benny Golson's band, or to work for Freddie Hubbard or Curtis Fuller in the early 60's that he managed to make a very promising reputation in the circuit. With two snaps of his fingers, McCoy Tyner became an obvious choice for many great frontmen. That's why John Coltrane, who already knew him, was totally convinced to include him in his quartet. A winning bet, since this collaboration will last until 1965, with legendary works such as My Favorite Things (1961), Olé Coltrane (1961), Africa/Brass (1961), Live at Birdland (1964) and to finish on the climax A Love Supreme (1965). With this alone, McCoy Tyner was already an accomplished musician. Especially since the evolution of Coltrane and Tyner are ultimately linked by that mutual alchemy and energy that took them to unimaginable heights. When Coltrane turned to Free Jazz, the artistic vision was too different between the two men. It was then that McCoy Tyner decided to really launch his career as a leader, faithful to a more structured and melodic style. After a few inconclusive first attempts in the first half of the 60's, McCoy Tyner gave birth to The Real McCoy, symbolizing a new fundamental step in his career.
Recorded in 1967 for Blue Note by Alfred Lion, The Real McCoy resounds at the same time as a new chapter but also as the quintessence of its author for the Post-Bop, because thereafter he will widen his style of play by the fusion, the avant-garde and the spirituality. For the blow The Real McCoy is a pure and hard demonstration of a rytmic and technical Post-Bop which blooms and builds itself through Modal structures. The Real McCoy is not a revolution in itself, it is "only" a work absolutely accomplished by its sophistication and the energy offered by a fabulous quartet. We find a very classical formation piano / tenor / bass / drums with experienced and talented collaborators such as Joe Henderson, Ron Carter or Elvis Jones. Nothing very surprising on the paper, but nevertheless The Real McCoy is quite simply a majestic experience which rubs the perfection. In this story, 5 original compositions signed by the author are found to compose this sensational adventure, including the introduction Passion Dance, a crazy chase warm and particularly contagious by its dynamism. The ability of Tyner and Henderson to interact with each other makes it sound so simple, while the complexity is disconcerting. In fact, it's like that throughout the album. Contemplation is more languid, bluesy at heart, but this ballad follows the same pull where everything is so perfect. The second side is built on a similar trajectory. Four By Five is bursting with energy, pushing the quartet's liveliness to the limit. Search For Peace and Blues On The Corner are more of a delightful ballad that stand out from the previous work. Again, nothing very surprising, there are hundreds of reference jazz albums that follow this model. Basically, McCoy has never been as brilliant as a leader as he is on The Real McCoy. It is a breathtaking fusion of perfection and technique. To conclude, The Real McCoy is also the symbol of one of the last Post-Bop masterpieces of the 60's, since this period showed that Jazz had reached the end of a cycle and that we were waiting for the Spiritual Jazz/ Jazz Fusion to make their appearances. One thus becomes aware of the global limits of Post-Bop on The Real McCoy, as strong as one feels to see its most beautiful face.