McCoy Tyner - Today And Tomorrow

McCoy Tyner Today And Tomorrow (Impulse 1964)

McCoy Tyner picked Brother Elvin and a bunch of interesting, first-class colleagues for his fourth album as a leader, Today And Tomorrow, arguably his most varied Impulse recording.

McCoy Tyner - Today And Tomorrow

Personnel

McCoy Tyner (piano), Thad Jones (trumpet A1, A3, B2), John Gilmore (tenor saxophone A1, A3, B2), Frank Strozier (alto saxophone A1, A3, B2), Butch Warren (bass A1, A3, B2), Jimmy Garrison (A2, B1, B3), Elvin Jones (drums A1, A3, B2), Albert Heath (drums A2, B1, B3)

Recorded

on June 3, 1963 (A2, B1, B3) and Februari 4, 1964 (A1, A3, B2) at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as Impulse A-63 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Contemporary Focus
Night In Tunesia
T ‘N’ A Blues
Side B:
Autumn Leaves
Three Flowers
When Sunny Gets Blue


Perhaps The Real McCoy is pianist McCoy Tyner’s greatest achievement as a leader. The Blue Note album, released in 1967, certainly is a perennial favorite for many fans and musicians alike. On a series of inventive and ‘meaningfully simple’ modal pieces, Tyner’s whirlwind style was totally synced with the interaction between Joe Henderson, Ron Carter and Elvin Jones. The album’s emotional directness goes straight to the gut. It’s got that something. However, the discography of Tyner is filled with hi-level gems. For all their boisterous dips into scales and dynamic voicings, most of them in fact have a conservative touch, as if the pianist took a breather from the intense wrestling match with Coltrane, whose famous quartet Tyner was part of from 1960 to 1965. Titles like Plays Ellington and Nights Of Ballads And Blues offer evident clues. Obviously, Today And Tomorrow, Tyner’s fourth album on Impulse, also finds Tyner realizing his indebtedness to the tradition. At the same time, the pianist revels in his ongoing search for new lands.

The album is divided between tunes with a trio and sextet line-up. The trio includes drummer Albert Heath, the sextet Elvin Jones, his friend from the Coltrane group. Tyner and Jones lock tight, the interaction of Tyner’s hefty voicings and the pushing-and-pulling rhythm of Jones on the modal blast Contemporay Focus is unbelievable. Contemporary Focus comes close to the energy of, say, Coltrane’s Crescent or Art Blakey’s Free For All. How’s that for spirit? The sidemen on Contemporary Focus, T ‘N’ A Blues and Three Flowers, the latter a beautiful melody that dances like a surfer on the waves of Butch Warren’s waltz figure and the contrasting polyrhythm of Elvin Jones, are Thad Jones, John Gilmore and Frank Strozier. Differing textures mingle, each one, Thad Jones’ snappy, balanced trumpet playing, John Gilmore’s soothing and refreshing mix of blues and space oddities, and Frank Strozier’s fervent twists and turns on the alto, equally distinct.

Whether in small or larger ensembles, McCoy is McCoy, all colorful strokes like Van Gogh high on absinthe. Underlined by a dense chordal labyrinth, his rather otherworldly technique creates patterns resembling the running of water, his right hand lines high on the keyboard flowing like cool water that splashes and gurgles its way through the narrow channels of a rocky river, and develops into cascading waterfalls before you can say ‘awesome’. Too much? Can’t breathe? Not taking away anything from Tyner’s unmatched gift, I can imagine. It may just be me. Regardless, there’s a balance of flamboyance and romance in McCoy Tyner’s playing that will intrigue listeners till kingdom come.

Of the trio recordings, Night In Tunesia stands out. Albert Heath’s brush playing is meaty, swift, rivaling the unforgettable mastery that Elvin Jones regularly displayed, notably on Tommy Flanagan’s Overseas. You can see Tootie sitting behind the kit, body erect, arms slightly moving along with the swift wrist that is doing the job so expertly. Today And Tomorrow is a masterclass in musical excellence, intense stuff. A rather indistinct title but a major league McCoy Tyner album.

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - 'S Make It

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers ‘S Make It (Limelight 1964)

After his cutting edge group of the early sixties including Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter disbanded, Art Blakey returned to a more old-timey approach with the Limelight LP ’S Make It.

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - 'S Make It

Personnel

Art Blakey (drums), Lee Morgan (trumpet), John Gilmore (tenor saxophone), Curtis Fuller (trombone), John Hicks (piano), Victor Sproles (bass)

Recorded

on November 15 & 16, 1964 in Los Angeles

Released

as Limelight 86001 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Faith
’S Make It
Waltz For Ruth
One For Gamal
Side B:
Little Hughie
Olympia
Lament For Stacey


The end of the year 1964: the preceding half decade of Blakey’s career had resulted in a series of now legendary albums on Blue Note and Riverside with one of his classic line-ups consisting of Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton and either Jimmy Merritt or Reggie Workman on bass: Mosaic, Ugetsu, Free For All. At the time, Blakey also moved around quite a bit, recording for Impulse, Colpix and (four albums for) Limelight in the mid-sixties.

A bit of jazz genealogy: ’S Make It features Blakey alumni Lee Morgan (1958-61) and trombonist Curtis Fuller, who is the only surviving member of the preceding line-up (1961-64). Tenor saxophonist John Gilmore, consiglieri of the eccentric pianist and band leader Sun Ra, had been assisted by Blakey on the unforgettable Clifford Jordan/John Gilmore album Blowin’ In From Chicago in 1957. Bassist Victor Sproles was a former bandmate of Gilmore in Sun Ra’s Arkestra. Finally, there’s pianist John Hicks, the least known of the bunch. Shaped by Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, infested with blues and the American Songbook, the 23-year old Hicks developed into a versatile player during his stint with Blakey in the mid-sixties. In his lifetime, Hicks played with Betty Carter, Woody Herman, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Lester Bowie, Arthur Blythe, among many others. Too easily overlooked, he lead many bands as a leader and was a fixture on the American and New York scene until his passing in 2006. Hicks contributed to two other Blakey albums on Limelight, Soul Finger and Hold On, I’m Coming. You still with me? A lot of crosscurrents in the jazz family. Undercurrents too. The currency of the dollar was about the only current not too prevalent among the Beethovens and Mozarts of classic American jazz. Even if he would’ve decided to be that generous, Art Blakey hardly could’ve put up the dough to let the rearview mirror fixed of one of Barbara Streisand’s Mercedes Benz automobiles.

’S Make It is slang for ‘let’s go’. Suitable title. Symbolic for the art of Blakey : Let’s just go, bopping hard with a heavy beat. ’S Make It is a Lee Morgan tune, one of three tunes that the reluctant Sidewinder (the trumpeter allegedly wasn’t too happy with his boogaloo hit The Sidewinder of July, 1964, as it threatened to cloud his more artistically viable, advanced direction, which came to fruition in his album Search For The New Land) provided for the session. The horns play a nifty, brassy blues line, while John Hicks puts in a hefty figure on the lower keys. Blakey pushes his men forward with this trademark bombs, rolls and cymbal signals, igniting hot bits by Morgan. Fuller is fluent, more calm and collected. The other Morgan tunes, One For Gamal and Lament For Stacey, are equally bluesy, straightforward cookers. Fine fair from the still only 26-year old, handsome Morgan, three years earlier introduced by the dryly comic Blakey in Tokyo’s Sanyei Hall as ‘the world critic award winner of the Downbeat Magazine, of the New Yorker Magazine, of the Jet Magazine, of the Look Magazine and of the Ladies Home Journal Magazine…’ O yeah, and not to mention, of the Flophouse Magazine.

With slight variations, the album follows these soulful procedures. The rousing Faith, driven by a solid Blakey shuffle, has an especially charming Dixie edge. John Gilmore’s smoky tenor contrasts nicely with Morgan’s sprightly trumpet in blues-based cuts like One For Hughie. A bit more sophisticated, the ballads of John Hicks and Lee Morgan, Olympia and Lament For Stacey respectively, focus on Morgan’s melancholic phrases and Hicks’ delicate runs. The John Hicks tune Waltz For Ruth harks back to the Wayne Shorter days, adding a modal section to the elongated, pretty melody. Blakey underscores the tune with the kind of hi-voltage drumming familiar from albums as Ugetsu.

’S Make It’ is a very enjoyable, undervalued Blakey album, with a line up that didn’t make it to the next record. A pity.