Tuesday, March 16, 2010
McCoy TYNER - Nights of Ballads & Blues 1963
Specially in its early years, Impulse! was a label that released a number of perfect coffee table albums, often from artists from which this kind of music was not entirely expected.
McCoy Tyner's Nights of Ballads & Blues is such an album: it's polished, it's slick, it's above all extremely elegant and stylish, and it has really very little in common with the music that Tyner recorded at the time with John Coltrane, or indeed with anything that he recorded later for Blue Note or Milestone.
"Satin Doll" is Ellingtonian to the extreme; "Round Midnight" is bar jazz at its most sophisticated, and the other tracks fit in seamlessly into this set of classy jazz standards. This is not a bad thing at all; it's just surprising to hear Tyner in this context. Unlike the later McCoy Tyner Plays Ellington, which seems both forced and bland, Nights of Ballads & Blues sparkles and is enjoyable from start to finish. It may not be Tyner's most advanced recording (in fact, it is probably anything but), but it's certainly good fun.
As the title implies, this McCoy Tyner release is a low-key, after-hours affair. Far removed from the intensity of work with then-boss John Coltrane, Tyner stretches out on a fine mix of standards and bebop classics. The pianist, of course, always had his own fleet and rich way with ballads, in spite of the galvanizing marathon solos he became known for on live dates and his later experimental recordings with Coltrane. His ballad style is even touched with a bit of sentimentality, which thankfully is kept in check by a bevy of tasteful lines. Backed by the topnotch rhythm tandem of bassist Steve Davis and drummer Lex Humphries, Tyner finds the room to develop classic statements on highlights like Monk's "'Round Midnight," Ellington and Strayhorn's "Satin Doll," and Parker's "Star Eyes." On more easeful tracks like "For Heaven's Sake," Tyner utilizes his block chord approach to meditative and romantic effect. Rounded out by solid blues sides like "Blue Monk" and Tyner's own "Groove Waltz," Nights of Ballads and Blues qualifies as one of the pianist's most enjoyable early discs.
By Stephen Cook. AMG.
The heart of this recording has to be McCoy's rendition of Round Midnight. Although done so many times as a jazz standard, McCoy breathes so much life into this version that the listener can't help but fall in love.
The rest of the album is spectacular as well, with McCoy demonstrating his solo ability in not-so-rare form. While many folks only know Tyner as a Coltrane sideman, others know his amazing capacity to engulf the audience in soulful ballads and high tempo acrobatics.
The muted picture on the album cover connotes the mystical feeling you be given while listening to this must-have for any jazz fan.
By Erik Berkule.
McCoy Tyner- (Piano)
Steve Davis- (Bass)
Lex Humphries- (Drums)
A1. Satin Doll 5:39
A2. We'll Be Together Again 3:40
A3. ´Round Midnight 6:22
A4. For Heaven's Sake 3:48
B1. Star Eyes 5:04
B2. Blue Monk 5:22
B3. Groove Waltz 5:31
B4. Days of Wine and Roses 3:21