McCoy Tyner - "Live At Newport"

McCoy Tyner • Live At Newport • 1963 • Impulse! Records AS-48
Recorded July 5, 1963 at the Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, Rhode Island

The Selection:

The Players:

McCoy Tyner - Piano
Clark Terry - Trumpet (A1, B1, B2)
Charlie Mariano - Alto Saxophone (A1, B1, B2)
Bob Cranshaw - Bass
Mickey Roker - Drums

The Tracks:

A1. Newport Romp
A2. All Of You
A3. Monk's Blues
B1. My Funny Valentine
B2. Woody 'N You

The Record:

Newcomers and casual jazz fans will associate McCoy Tyner only with John Coltrane's classic 1960's quartet, but his discography is full of some phenomenal albums he made as a leader throughout the 1960's and 1970's. Live At Newport is no exception, it's a stimulating performance with Tyner and company firing on all cylinders at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1963. Three of the tracks are performed by a quintet (with Clark Terry and the now obscure Charlie Mariano on the brass) and two feature just the trio of Tyner, Bob Cranshaw and Mickey Roker. 

The quintet tracks are pure hard bop nirvana, with tons of energy and a driving rhythm section led by Tyner's outsize talents. The liner notes tell us that Tyner was not only nearly too exhausted to play the afternoon set (having played Montreal till the wee hours the night before), but the group put together by Bob Thiele had two guys (Mariano and Cranshaw) that Tyner had never played with before. The bluesy opening number "Newport Romp" (listen above) is worth the price of admission alone, and is all the more impressive given the fact that the quintet made it up on the spot. The trio performances are upbeat and excellent, with lots of symbiotic playing between the three players, and let's us hear Tyner in a setting that he's not necessarily known for, but one that he excels at. 

McCoy Tyner was a busy man when this album was recorded in 1963. Earlier that year in March he would record John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (Impulse! A-40) and just a month before Live At Newport he was at Rudy Van Gelder's studio to play on Joe Henderson's ultra-classic Page One (Blue Note BLP 4140). To end out the year, in October and November, Tyner would take part in yet another classic album in the form of Coltrane's Live At Birdland. That he had the energy and drive to excel on these sessions and lead his own is a testament to the creativity that was obviously oozing from his fingertips. While many jazz players hope to record one recording with some lasting power, Tyner managed to play on four in the course of one year. Amazing.

The Vinyl:

Oh no! It's the dreaded mid-1970's ABC/Impulse green rainbow label! While it is said in many places that these pressings are to be avoided and sound terrible, I have a few of these and the sound is actually pretty good. On this pressing, Tyner's piano and the rest of the rhythm section come shining through loud and clear, and the horn players are bright and vibrant. I'm sure an original pressing would have some more depth to it, and this vinyl is 1970's thin with a label that has zero charm to it, but it's in great shape and for $10, I'm perfectly happy with it until the time comes that I come across an original and am willing to pay the asking price.

The cover is a glossy gatefold with a fantastic photo of Tyner looking serious and studied playing at the piano. I love when an LP cover gives you a good sense of the intensity of the music inside. Lucky for me, these later 1970's pressings still have the heavy gatefold covers and original artwork with them. I don't know the precise date, but in the 1980's MCA eventually did away with the gatefold covers - one of my earliest jazz LP purchases way back when was the Impulse! album Coltrane (Impulse! A-21) in this forgettable format (it is still in my collection after all this year, due to the fact that it doesn't sound totally terrible). Come to think of it, that late 1962 recording was yet another one that Tyner shined on. He is a true legend of jazz's golden age and we were lucky to have him playing on so many classic recordings from the period. 

McCoy Tyner, 1961 (Photo © Francis Wolff)