Roots finds one of the most influential jazz pianists of all time honoring some of his jazz piano favorites. Tyner, who has lost none of his vigor, verve, and supple musicality as he enters the sixth decade of his career, gives props to all the greats in doses both dynamic and loving on this impressive solo recording. Whether smoking through "A Night in Tunisia," romping through mid-tempo cruisers such as "Pannonica" and "Lullaby of Birdland," or caressing ballads like "Misty" and "My Foolish Heart," Tyner displays all the power and inventiveness that has made him one of the most admired players in modern jazz. Tyner needs a full band to make an impact like most of us need an extra thumb. Roots turns into a simultaneous tribute to immortal players like Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Erroll Garner, Art Tatum, Keith Jarrett, and Chick Corea, as well as to Tyner's own undiminished strengths.
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There is a grandeur to the musical universe of McCoy Tyner that wields a power so strong, that it seems ancient, like the venerable stillness of the pyramids. In his first solo recording in almost ten years, Tyner pays tribute to his pianistic peers and forebears, who have provided him both pleasure and influence over the years. What a pleasure for us it is to hear these compositions ¿ all standards save two pieces Tyner wrote for Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett ¿ interpreted by a master of the idiom. Tyner¿s singular harmonic sense and bold articulation bring new luster to these songs, enhancing their familiar contours with new hues, while reminding us why we loved them in the first place. The playful jaunt of Thelonious Monk¿s ¿Pannonica,¿ for example, comes alive with a Gershwin-esque feel, while ¿My Foolish Heart¿ (which he dedicates to Bill Evans) finds a deep emotional core that is quietly breathtaking. And, speaking of George Gershwin, Jazz Roots contains one of the most haunting interpretations of the composer¿s ¿Summertime¿ we may ever be privileged to hear; the blues run that he begins his solo with resonates like a trickle of tears. What makes this recording doubly fascinating is the personal sense of history that Tyner brings to the proceedings. Bebop pioneer Bud Powell, for instance, actually played the teenaged Tyner¿s piano in a visit to his home, and Art Tatum ¿ to whom McCoy dedicates ¿Sweet and Lovely¿ ¿ was one of the first musicians Tyner saw perform live. A word about the sound: Telarc¿s audiophile engineers have captured Tyner¿s immense presence as few have before, making the listener feel as if he¿s sitting on the piano bench with the man. Listen to this disc and hear, not only the roots of jazz, but the tree and all its branches.