Benito Gonzalez, Gerry Gibbs and Essiet Okon Essiet – Passion Reverence Transcendence: The Music of McCoy Tyner — Whaling City Sound 

A charismatic Tyner tribute.

Benito Gonzalez, Gerry Gibbs and Essiet Okon Essiet – Passion Reverence Transcendence: The Music of McCoy Tyner [TrackList follows] – Whaling City Sound [dist. by NAXOS] WCS 102, 77:32 [4/27/18] ****:

(Benito Gonzalez – acoustic piano; Gerry Gibbs – producer, drums, percussion, conga drums, harp, mini-Moog, vibraphone, marimba, kalimba, balifons, glockenspiel, electronic effects, voices, wood flutes, quica; Essiet Okon Essiet – acoustic and electric bass)

There are jazz artists who create magic which inspires other musicians. Pianist and composer McCoy Tyner is one of those artists. His presence looms through the 77-minute, 13-track Passion Reverence Transcendence: The Music of McCoy Tyner. Venezuelan pianist Benito Gonzalez (who has recorded with Ron Blake, Azar Lawrence and Christian McBride); percussionist/drummer Gerry Gibbs (his résumé includes Tyner, Stanley Clarke, Alice Coltrane and others); and bassist Essiet Okon Essiet (he has performed or recorded with Kenny Barron, Kurt Elling, Kenny Garrett and more) offer a testament to Tyner’s legacy with nine pieces penned by Tyner; three trio originals; and a John Coltrane tune. Gonzalez, Gibbs and Essiet are not shy about their adoration for Tyner. In the CD liner notes Gonzalez admits, “I listened to [Tyner] every day because I loved the freedom, and most of all the spirit that was coming out of his playing.” Gibbs states, “By the time I was 14 years old, McCoy Tyner had become my biggest musical influence. By 16, I owned every solo LP of McCoys.” When he was older, Gibbs shared a stage with Tyner and they have maintained a closeness since then. Essiet and Gibbs became friends when they were 13—the two were later in a Tyner covers band—and Essiet says, “When Gerry Gibbs asked me to do the McCoy project…I was thrilled to do it.” Gibbs, Gonzalez and Essiet first got together in saxophonist Azar Lawrence’s group. Gibbs declares, “The three of us had an instant connection.”

Passion Reverence Transcendence is a nearly non-stop energy rush. Each tune was taped in a single take. Gibbs then spent one afternoon overdubbing his contributions except the drums on one cut. From the get-go on the 6:36 “Fly with the Wind” (the title track from a 1976 Tyner LP), the trio pushes and propels the material into a heated exchange of communication, camaraderie and confluence. Even more fiery and fulminous is the six-minute adaptation of “Rotunda” (from Tyner’s 1977 record, Inner Voices.) Gibbs, Gonzalez and Essiet sustain a frenzied pace which never slows down or falters. Gibbs employs various percussion instruments throughout the album and adds several of them for the poised, lengthy “Festival in Bahia,” (another from Inner Voices) including harp in the genteel introduction. When the number kicks into a higher gear Gibbs brings in drums and other percussion elements which support an African rhythmic undercurrent. Gibbs’ multifarious percussive instruments are also used throughout a six-minute, swinging “Atlantis” (the title track from Tyner’s famed 1974 LP). The threesome trim this down quite a lot (Tyner’s version was 18 minutes) and provide plenty of great moments. The way the rhythm is tossed out via piano, bass and drums is resounding and wonderous. “Atlantis” is an incontestable workout.

One of the shortest cuts is the gentle ballad “You Taught My Heart to Sing,” from McCoy Tyner & Jackie McLean’s 1985 duet project, It’s About Time. “You Taught My Heart to Sing” is beautiful and melodically lyrical. The trio’s delightful arrangement focuses on Gibbs’ rolling percussion, Gonzalez’s lovely piano chords and Essiet’s superb acoustic bass. Another stunner is Gonzalez’s solo piano rendition of Coltrane’s “Naima,” where Gonzalez balances harmonic and melodic improvisation into a sublime and sometimes elaborate equilibrium.

Passion Reverence Transcendence concludes with three originals, one per trio member. Up first is Essiet’s “Tyner Train Express” a fusion-tinged homage which includes Gibbs’ mini-Moog and Essiet’s bumping electric bass. “Tyner Train Express” has a distinct, Weather Report-type affinity. Then comes Gibb’s “Between Friends,” which probably hints at his long friendship with Tyner. “Between Friends” has a Latin jazz nuance and is a medium swinger filled with aplomb and assurance. The final piece is Gonzalez’s seven-minute jazz portrait, “Brazilian Girls,” which commences with Gonzalez’s solo piano introduction. From there, the trio instigates a sprinting run through thematic jazz with strong melodic gusts and plenty of improvisational space for Gibb’s drum set and percussion, Gonzalez’s piano and Essiet’s bass. If you’re a fan of Tyner’s solo work then Passion Reverence Transcendence is well worth discovering.

TrackList:
Fly with the Wind
Just Feelin’
Rotunda
Festival in Bahia
Blues on the Corner
The Greeting
You Taught My Heart to Sing
Atlantis
Inner Glimpse
Naima
Tyner Train Express
Between Friends
Brazilian Girls

—Doug Simpson

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