I recently posted an obit tribute to the recently departed piano giant McCoy Tyner but with no live links. Today, I came across this extended performance of his quartet doing “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit,” first documented on the live album Enlightenment.
Buckle up. It’s a major performance and worth your while to get a sense of Tyner in his astonishing prime. Tyner on piano, Azar Lawrence on saxophone, Juney Booth on bass and Alphonse Mouzon on drums. Recorded at the 1973 Montreux Jazz Festival. Courtesy the Jazz Video Guy.
As the theme of “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit” took over my backdrop today, having played this whole video through a handful of times, something registered with me. Tyner, in such work, doesn’t abide by the bebop or Tin Pan Alley requisites of chord changes per a certain amount of bars, despite the theme’s very slight modal modulations. This aesthetic eschews a melody’s urge to engage a more harmonic story. He’s doing his thought-diving into deep and even primal waters. He’s striving, in his theme’s repetition,for the power of the incantatory, something very old, profound and timeless in music, as deeply explored by Ted Gioia in his extraordinary new book, Music, A Subversive History.
I hope to offer more on that book in the near future. Meanwhile, keep McCoy in your thoughts and speakers and earbuds. You might be surprised how much he can do for your tattered spirit.