McCoy Tyner: Counterpoints

McCoy Tyner’s piano makes some ugly noises on Counterpoints (Milestone). Don’t blame Tyner; it’s the piano that has a severe case of the out-of-tunes, possibly because the tracks on this album were recorded live on an outdoor stage in Tokyo in 1978. Nevertheless, notes twang when they should sing, and blue harmonies turn a nauseating green from the extra little dissonances. The piano’s flaws stand out starkly when Tyner plays so many notes; on this record he never simply lands on a note when he can make it into a trill, and he sends waves of scales and ornaments over even a slow tune like “Aisha.” While Tyner’s feeling for the innate beauty of the melody helps there and in his duet with Ron Carter on “Prelude to a Kiss,” more percussive music like the solo “Sama Layuca” or “The Greeting” is simply a mess, even if Carter and drummer Tony Williams shine on the latter. Counterpoints does feature one never-before-on-record Tyner tune, “Iki Masho (Let’s Go),” whose title probably played well in Tokyo; it’s worth hearing for a ruminative, funky five-minute-long solo from Carter, who first distorts the theme, then masterfully deconstructs it. If you like the sound of a fine piano, though, look elsewhere.