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Guitars by McCoy Tyner

In Guitars, McCoy Tyner, the great pianist, teams up with five stringed-instrument players, each uniquely different, to produce a diverse, very listenable CD. The collaborators, all headliners themselves, are Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, John Scofield, Derek Trucks on guitars and, on banjo, Bela Fleck. The group has the inestimable rhythmic backing of Ron Cater, bass, and Jack DeJohnette, drums. Not enough praise can be given their work in support.

Each guest is allowed roughly the same amount of time on the record. And, Tyner adeptly adapts to the various styles. A big plus for the listener is the DVD included which gives close looks at the session.

Ribot's guitar, with snarling, atonal verve, opens the play list with an exciting version of Tyner’s own "Passion Dance." He is pumped by Tyner’s jagged harmony and DeJohnette’s forceful drumming. In "500 Miles," the tempo calms into a jocular, bluesy mood. Ribot’s avant garde leanings, Tyner’s post bop penchant-a nice coming-together here.

Scofield, a consummate artist who plays in all styles, fits in gracefully with the trio. He assertively takes on two Tyner tunes, ramping up the tempo on "Mr. P.C." and then meshing perfectly with Tyner on "Blues on the Corner." Listen to the piano and guitar interplay on the latter.

With Fleck, there appears to be a clash at first in his "Trade Winds," with the banjo affecting a Middle Eastern sound. We’re soon won over, though, by Tyner’s relentlessly driving piano which lifts the piece to an exciting climax. It was Fleck’s choice, selecting "My Favorite Things," long associated with Tyner during his Coltrane years. And he, impressively, comes through, again upheld by Tyner’s hypnotic chordal pattern in the background.

Rock-oriented Trucks, youngster of the group, came to the session wanting to play "Greensleeves." A great choice it turns out in this majestic arrangement, pitting his rough-edged, wailing guitar against Tyner’s graceful style. On Tyner’s "Slapstick Blues," Trucks shines with a funky rock groove.

The eclectic Bill Frisell conjurs a soulful spell on Tyner’s "Contemplation." On the guitarist's "Baba Drame," repetition is used to great effect once more, creating a zen quality with master Tyner.

The DVD offers six versions of each taping: one for each player, a combined edit and a four-way split screen. During the sessions, it’s interesting to hear the banter between musicians as they plan the takes. Of course, to see Tyner’s hands at work on the keys, Carter and DeJohnette working their magic, is both an education and a pleasure.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: McCoy Tyner
  • CD Title: Guitars
  • Genre: Various Jazz Styles
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Half Note Records
  • Tracks: Improvisation 2, Passion Dance, 500 Miles, Mr. P.C., Blues on the Corner, Improvisation 1, Trade Winds, Amberjack, My Favorite Things, Slapback Blues, Greensleeves, Contemplation, Boubacar, Baba Drame
  • Rating: Five Stars
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