Saturday, December 12, 2009


This Friday and Saturday mark the birthdays of two giants in contemporary jazz - pianist McCoy Tyner, who turned 71; and drummer Tony Williams, who today would have turned 64. Tyner is probably best known for his stint in John Coltrane's bands at the end of the 1950s through 1965 (including of course Coltrane's classic quartet that produced such incredible works as "A Love Supreme"). After Trane died, Tyner recorded a number of excellent albums for Blue Note and later Milestone Records. Tyner seemed to favor the piano trio setting, but also seems quite at home with larger ensembles (see, for instance, "Asante") as well as solo settings. Regardless of the setting, and regardless of style (during the early 1970s there were tons of African influences, but otherwise seems to be more of a straight-ahead hardbop cat), there is a majestic quality to his sound that has to be heard to be truly appreciated.

Tony Williams is best known for his stint with Miles Davis during much of the 1960s before leading his own fusion group during the late 1960s and 1970s, Lifetime. Needless to say, the albums with Davis' quintet of the 1960s, right before Davis went electric, are considered classics and Williams is one of the cats who drove Davis to modernize his sound. Williams was also a much-sought after sideman, who appeared in both straight-ahead and avant-garde recordings (he played on notable recording sessions led by Sam Rivers, and Eric Dolphy, for example), as well as led his first recording date while still in his teens.

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