McCoy Tyner Trio – Inception – Impulse/Analogue Productions Stereo-only SACD CIPJ 18 SA, 32:57 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
(McCoy Tyner – piano; Art Davis – bass; Elvin Jones – drums)
Philadelphia native McCoy Tyner began his musical education at thirteen. Almost immediately, it became a lifelong commitment. With Bud and Richard Powell as neighbors, the foray into jazz was inevitable. The Powells and Thelonious Monk inspired spontaneity in the burgeoning virtuoso. Tyner’s initial exposure came as a pianist with the seminal Benny Golson and Art Farmer Jazztet in 1960. Then he began a historical stint with John Coltrane. Iconic albums (all on Impulse) including My Favorite Things, A Love Supreme, Live At The Village Vanguard, Crescent, Live At Birdland and John Coltrane Plays… launched Tyner into the upper echelon of bop jazz pianists. His ability to sustain melodic themes within the atonal improvisational mode of Trane was uncanny.
It did not take long for Tyner to emerge as a band leader. He recorded six albums for Impulse (1962-1964), six for Blue Note (1967-1970) and close to twenty for Milestone (1972-1981). The percussive modal style influenced a generation of post-bop jazz musicians. He still records and plays, extending this illustrious career to a fifth decade. A veritable all- star cadre of players worked with him in a variety of formats.
In 1962 Tyner was encouraged to record his debut album for Impulse. He reunited with Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Art Davis. The debut featured four original compositions and two covers, in a concise (but LP appropriate) thirty-three minutes. From the opening piano lines of the title cut, it is apparent that Tyner is exploring melodic textures, often in bop swing time. A blues piece (in C minor) Inception features spontaneous precision with cohesive rhythm patterns. While some consider the style of play different from the muscular bravura that defined subsequent material, the rapid-fire solos are ever present. Jones is a perfect complement to the complex tempo patterns. “Blues For Gwen” (B flat) is pulsating, and surrounded with cadence shifts and extended solo activity. A highlight is the radiant “Effendi”(D minor, F# minor bridge). Key shifts and Tyner’s lyrical creativity are on full display. Davis (who played with Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie and Coltrane) has an understated, crisp solo.
The trio is expressive on the covers. “There Is No Greater Love” (past versions include Billie Holiday and Sonny Rollins) may be the most interconnected song on the album. Each player gets the spotlight as the others sustain the integrated spontaneity with nimble accuracy. A 1943 Kurt Weill Broadway hit (“Speak Low”) is transformed into a percolating, crescendo-laden reincarnation. Tyner has a unique ability to reinvent standard popular material as swinging jam sessions. However, he never loses the tune’s melodic direction.
This SACD reissue is meticulous in preserving the clean separation of the original analog recording. The overall sound benefits from the enhanced hi-resolution technology. The clarity and detail of the piano and drum is significantly enhanced. Inception is an authentic jazz legacy.
TrackList: Inception; There Is No Greater Love; Blues For Gwen; Sunset; Effendi; Speak Low
— Robbie Gerson