What happens once an artist has achieved greatness? In pianist McCoy Tyner's case, the fascination with beauty continues. Jazz Roots: McCoy Tyner Honors Jazz Piano Legends of the 20th Century is an adventurous solo piano tribute primarily devoted to recreating the roots of jazz, from ragtime to stride, to Art Tatum, to Bud Powell, and on up.
Using piano players as a theme for his new recording, Tyner explains, "I just wanted to pay homage to my predecessors who made it all possible and to those who are continuing the solo tradition." Playing with typical eloquence and authority, his subjects here include Thelonius Monk ("Pannonica"), Duke Ellington ("Don't Get Around Much Anymore"), and George Gershwin ("Summertime"). An underrated composer, Tyner honors "those who are continuing the solo tradition" with two of his own pieces: "Rio" for Chick Corea and "Happy Days" for Keith Jarrett.
For Tyner's many fans, a solo recording is a particularly savory treat. Although his solo output doesn't receive the recognition of his contributions to Coltrane's quartet, the inspired playing here displays vibrant orchestral qualities and is surprisingly lush. The fourteen tracks on Jazz Roots: McCoy Tyner Honors Jazz Piano Legends of the 20th Century range from understated and graceful to extraordinarily buoyant and percussive.
Born in Philadelphia in 1938, Tyner's music has been a major influence in jazz, incorporating modal playing and African rhythmic elements. A member of the fabled John Coltrane quartet of the '60s (along with bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones), he went on to record several brilliant albums for Blue Note and Milestone, lead Latin-jazz bands, and, most recently, investigate new directions for the piano trio format.
Jazz Roots: McCoy Tyner Honors Jazz Piano Legends of the 20th Century is his third recording with Telarc. His label debut, McCoy Tyner and the Latin All-Stars (CD-83462), was released in March 1999. He followed that with the critically acclaimed McCoy Tyner with Stanley Clarke and Al Foster (CD-83488) in January 2000.