Burnin' modal post-bop
Jan P. Dennis | Monument, CO USA | 11/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When this music's done right, as it is by two masters like McCoy Tyner (piano) and Jackie McLean (alto sax), almost nothin' can touch it. Too often, though, it's not done by masters, and it's not done right. Even though it may seem to be about chops, dexterity, virtuosity, it's not. It's about feeling and intuition. It's not enough simply to master the moves, as so many young lions have done; you've got to have something to say. Yes, you need to master the idiom, but after you've done that, you need to acquire a unique voice and speak with originality and authority, not just rehash tired old phrases.
It's a mystery to me why this disc isn't better known. Recorded in the late 80s--not especially a stellar time for jazz--perhaps it just fell through the cracks. Or maybe it's because it's under 40 minutes long. And McLean sits out for the last two cuts, so he's only on board for about a half an hour. And half the cuts feature the funkified Jaco-esque e-bass of Marcus Miller (Ron Carter's on the other half), so there's somewhat of a discontinuity of tone and mood. But that shouldn't stop anyone, at least not in my view. When he plays, McLean plays brilliantly, spinning out fresh ideas and gloriously articulated solos. And the compositions, ranging from bop burners ("Spur of the Moment") to sultry ballads ("You Taught My Heart to Sing," "No Flowers Please") to Latin numbers ("Travelin'" and "It's About Time," my favorite tracks) to a bloozy romp ("Hip-Toe"), all by Tyner (except "No Flowers Please"), feature his trademark genius for melodic ingenuity and rhythmic drive.
Tyner sounds as good as I've ever heard him: he's got the savvy and maturity of his later period combined with the restless innovation of his early days. His solo on "Travelin'" absolutely stands out. And if McLean has lost just a bit of his earlier fire, he more than makes up for it with a rich, burnished tone on alto, among the most attractive of any man to ever pick up the smaller horn. John Faddis plays trumpet on two cuts, and it's great to hear him in this setting. He's a player who has always struck me as being better as a sideman than as a leader. Blessed with outrageous chops, he has sometimes struggled to integrate his playing into a group setting, but he does so marvelously here. Al Foster on drums, what with his long stint with Miles through several of his iterations, perfectly fits into this slightly eclectic setting, and he easily and naturally fits in with longtime Miles bandmate Marcus Miller.
All in all, a very fine effort absolutely worth picking up."