JJ 07/63: McCoy Tyner – Inception

Sixty years ago, Michael Shera hailed the pianist's leader debut for its creativity and avoidance of fashionable gospel-soul cliché. First published in Jazz Journal July 1963


McCoy Tyner’s first album as a leader is an exhilarating listening experience. For many people, myself included, his contributions were the most enjoyable parts of the Coltrane-Dolphy group’s performances during their visit here in November 1961, and Tyner works as well with Elvin Jones on this record as he did on the tour.

The third member of his trio, Art Davis, is a highly ac­complished and imaginative musician, who is now amongst the first rank of bassists. He makes an outstanding con­tribution to the success of the record, which is a meeting of three equally im­portant musical minds, rather than simply another piano-led trio.

Tyner clearly has no time for fashionable gospel-soul clichés, and his improvisations are fresh, unpredictable, melodically rewarding and full of human warmth. Tyner is also a composer of promise, having written four of the album’s six tunes. Besides the blues already mentioned, he wrote the opening fast blues, “Sunset” (a gently reflective and melodically attractive musical portrait of his wife) and “Effendi” (based on two chords), the most Coltrane-influenced tune.

Tyner pours forth a cascade of Trane-like phrases, at times achieving a texture similar to Coltrane’s sheets of sound. This is set against a brilliant polyrhythmic background set up by the superb Elvin Jones. Davis and Jones also solo magnificently on this track, the outstanding one of the album.

“Speak Low” is introduced with the now-obligatory Latin bit, Tyner and Davis again playing excellent solos. The arrangement of “Love” has been well thought out; Davis plays the opening melodic phrase slightly after Tyner, before moving into 2/4 time, and finally 4/4 for the improvisations at medium-tempo. Another fine track.

It is amusing to think that when I wrote (reviewing Freddie Hubbard’s Blue Note 4085 LP “Ready For Freddie”) in our September, 1962 issue, “one wonders how much more he (McCoy Tyner) has to do before he is given a recording date of his own”, Tyner had almost certainly recorded at least one LP – this one. There are no dud tracks on the record, which I found one of the most richly rewarding piano records I have heard in a long time.

Inception; There Is No Greater Love; Blues For Gwen (15 min) – Sunset; Effendi; Speak Low (18 min)
McCoy Tyner (p); Art Davis (bs); Elvin Jones (d). N.Y.C., probably early 1962.
(HMV CLP 1638 12inLP 30s. 11d.)