Review of McCoy Tyner's FLY WITH THE WIND by J.R.Taylor from JAZZ MAGAZINE , Fall 1976

Tyner performs his own compositions and arrangements with Ron Carter [bass], Billy Cobham [drums], three woodwinds [including Hubert Laws], ten strings, and harp. The barrier between the most principled jazz performers and popular audiences is bitterly evident here. As disco, the title track and SALVATORE DE SAMBA have considerable sophistication. But as Tyner, they are almost caricatures- and twice disappointing , since the SONG OF THE NEW WORLD album has already shown the pianist's ability to enhance his work with strings.

Tyner's reputation rests on his performance of potentially sacharine material in an admirably unsentimental manner. But recently his energetic approach has acquired a musclebound cast.

Cobham reinforces the drift toward overstatement. His sense of time is uncanny; there is hardly an accent among Tyner's themes that his bass drum doesn't catch, and hardly a crescendo without a flourish from his cymbals. But Tyner simply does not need this literal "shadow" drumming; nor does he benefit from Cobham's cataclysmic single-stroke-roll echoes of his piano tremolos. When the drum part is conceived more loosely, and as a countervoice [hear ROIEM], the heart of Tyner's music is more clearly felt. But on this record, a heavy hand is the rule, and thus what might have been robust and rhythmically assured string writing in another context often seems like only more useless weight here.

Nor does this setting enhance Tyner's invention. His solos are repetitive dilutions of earlier work ; one particular descending phrase crops up time and again [except in BEYOND THE SUN] with the grim persistent rattle of an engine that won't start. Laws' solo on SALVATORE DE SAMBA benefits by simple contrast; he doesn't sound as if he yearns to blow his flute out of shape in a single, never-quite-strong-enough phrase. In this , he is all but alone on a record that might have pointed to reconciliations with popular music - both in its disco selections or in the stark reharmonization of YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM - if not for Tyner's misuse of his inimitable strength.


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