Album reviews

McCoy Tyner – ‘The Montreux Years’

McCoy Tyner – The Montreux Years
(Claude Nobs Foundation/BMG 5053888948. Vinyl review by Phil Johnson)

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As shown in the fascinating recent three-part BBC television series on the Montreux Jazz Festival (‘They All Came Out to Montreux’, still available on iPlayer, where the first episode is essential viewing for its early performance footage), founder/director Claude Nobs (1936-2013) was intent on recording as many of the festival’s acts as he could, in both audio and video. The legacy has resulted in a continuing programme of releases from the festival’s archives, under the joint auspices of the Claude Nobs Foundation and BMG Records. This double LP collection of revered pianist and bandleader McCoy Tyner’s selected performances is one of the picks of the latest batch.

Featuring three all-star bands over three recording dates from 1981, 1986 and 2009, with all seven tunes Tyner originals apart from Monk’s ‘Ask Me Now’, the collection provides a pretty good digest of the attractions of both Tyner himself and of bravura festival jazz, full of virtuoso piano-pounding and heroic blowing from some of the best horn players available, including Joe Henderson, Arthur Blythe, Chico Freeman and Paquito D’Rivera (the latter three from the same 1981 band).

It also shows how vital a presence Tyner – who died in 2020 – remained in his latter years. The 2009 selections are among the very best performances here, with the trio of Tyner with bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Eric Kamau Gravatt augmented by Gary Bartz on sax and Bill Frisell on guitar. The pitfalls are very few, although ‘Latino Suite’ does rather carry the air of the interminable encore feature, and the album sleeve details can be less perfect than the music deserves. Tyner is heard solo on ‘Eternally Yours’, and there’s no ‘Passion Dance’, perhaps his most famous tune, or any Coltrane compositions.

LINK: Buy The Montreux Years

Categories: Album reviews, Reviews

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