McCoy Tyner – Nights of Ballads and Blues – Impulse A-39/ Analogue Productions CIPJ 39SA – SACD Stereo-only (1963) 39:01 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
(McCoy Tyner, piano; Steve Davis, bass; Lex Humphries, drums)
Twenty-four years old at the time of the issue of this album, McCoy Tyner’s main influences coming out of his native Philadelphia, were fellow Philly legends, Benny Golson and John Coltrane. John and Benny were teenage friends of Tyner’s, and they each provided different paths for the young pianist. Golson was grounded in mainstream jazz, while Coltrane after leaving Miles Davis’ employ, was branching out into new territory with avant garde leanings.
Nights of Ballads and Blues was Tyner’s third release. It is made up of well known standards with the exception of McCoy’s own composition, “Groove Waltz,” which has the funkiest rhythms. The balance of the tracks are introspective in nature. Produced by Impulse impresario Bob Thiele, it was recorded in a single day: March 4, 1963.
Tyner makes use largely of block chords, which have kept him in good stead throughout his career, now spanning six decades. The tracks here are perfect for relaxed late night listening, either with headphones, or in a small setting where the mood is contemplative.
“Satin Doll” from Ellington is taken at a relaxed Dukish pace. Lex Humphries is mixed up front with bassist, Davis, providing a steady pulse. Audiophile Productions has done their usual stellar job in bringing warm audiophile studio sound that approaches a feeling that you are in a intimate acoustically-balanced sound room. “Round Midnight” shows Monk’s inspiration on Tyner at the time of recording, as he adds “Blue Monk” later in the session. “Midnight” gets a warm less dissonant reading from Tyner. McCoy has a delicate touch and you feel Tyner’s concentration as his fingers caress the keyboard.
The same can be said for the other tunes not attributable to Monk or Ellington; “We’ll Be Together Again, “For Heaven’s Sake, “Star Eyes,” and Henry Mancini’s “Days of Wine and Roses.” They are very lyrical, yet have enough swing to keep your interest.
My favorite track is Tyner’s penned, “Groove Waltz.” Steve Davis provides the beating pulse, whereas Humphries takes on a more assertive role. Tyner improvises blues lines that build in intensity.
For fans who track the career development of McCoy Tyner, and enjoy relaxed late night listening with enough spunk to keep you actively listening, Nights of Ballads and Blues makes a nice purchase. The audiophile quality acoustics is frosting on the cake.
TrackList: Satin Doll, We’ll Be Together Again, ‘Round Midnight, For Heaven’s Sake, Star Eyes, Blue Monk, Groove Waltz, Days of Wine and Roses
A posthumous release of late career Bill Evans in SACD format adds to the formidable legacy.