McCoy Tyner: Today and Tomorrow (1963) Impulse

After a brief sortie into the mid -70s, LJC returns to the early 60s, closer to Home.


Selection: Contemporary Focus

.  .  .

Artists:

Impulse title containing two sessions, recorded eight months apart, three tracks in trio, three in sextet with John Gilmore (Sun Ra Arkestra), released in July 1964.

TRIO: (Autumn Leaves, Night In Tunisia, When Sunny Gets Blue)
McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Tootie Heath, drums. ; Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, June 4, 1963

SEXTET:  (Contemporary Focus, Three Flowers, T ‘N A Blues)
Thad Jones, trumpet; Frank Strozier, alto sax; John Gilmore, tenor sax; McCoy Tyner, piano; Butch Warren, bass; Elvin Jones, drums, NYC, February 4, 1964

Fourth of six titles Tyner recorded for Impulse! at a time he was a little over half-way through his five year apprenticeship with The John Coltrane Quartet, before jumping ship to Blue Note to go his own separate way. In those five years “Tyner  developed a new vocabulary that transcended the piano styles of the time, providing a unique harmonic underpinning and rhythmic charge essential to the Coltrane group’s sound”.  (Quoted fromTyner’s own site, McCoyTyner.com. Who else better qualified to explain Tyner’s approach and contribution than Tyner himself? Certainly not me)

Tyner is often described as the most influential stylist of jazz piano, the role-model for all up and coming pianists. Which might explain why he can sound much like everyone else. Because most pianists have modelled themselves on him. If every painter painted like Picasso, then Picasso’s work would look like everyone elses. If every bandleader had followed Sun Ra…we’d all agree, Space is, like, really really  boring.

This is this the sort of insight that is unique to LJC, profound or uniquely stupid, take your pick.

Music

John Gilmore on shore leave from Saturn, need I say more? Oh alright then, I will.

Today and Tomorrow” is arguably  McCoy’s best album for Impulse, and rivalled only by his subsequent first title for Blue Note (Liberty), The Real McCoy (1967). Tyner still shines in the richer sextet setting  and the music is more compelling than in trio. The only improvement could have been for the Sextet to take the whole album. Half a cake is better than none, though recently published  research “Having your Cake And Eating It”  Gluttony Press 2018;4(2): 341–353 suggests a whole cake is more than a half, possibly even twice so, however further research is needed to confirm this.

Two standards from the jazz playbook, Autumn Leaves and Night in Tunisia, have familiar tunes given a remarkably fresh reading, but the standout track is the intense, modal beast  “Contemporary Focus“, an odd choice of title, more suited to an office furniture catalogue. A bit like the album title itself, “Today and Tomorrow”, stiff, didactic, and instantly forgettable. You wouldn’t forget “Kinda Blue”

The three horns take no prisoners: Thad Jones liquid gold trumpet, Strozier’s blues-inflected alto and Gilmore’s intense tenor all ride the deck on board Tyner’s war-craft, with Elvin Jones power in the engine room below, navigating over  Butch Warren’s buoyant bass. How to murder-a-metaphor. The very excellent Flophouse Magazine blogged a very detailed review of this album earlier in the year (hat-tip Francois!) which I just found, so I will step aside at this point.

Vinyl:  Impulse AS-63-A

Gatefold: some water-damage to the cover (that sea-going metaphor again?) Impulse gatefolds are a nice artefact, laminated thick card cover,  artist portraiture and informative thoughtful liner notes, though the best feature of Impulse, as all Impulse collectors know, is the two colour spine. Especially in a line, with two hundred others.

Impulse Spine A1-37

Today and Tomorrow is one of Van Gelder better engineering sessions – though nearly all are very good, and better than most other engineers (however notably Fred Plaut, Roy DuNann, some others hold their own). Van Gelder kept his methods to himself, among the first to make use of the new tube-mics from Telefunken, so he doesn’t sound like everyone else, or at least not until the 80’s. By then everyone had the same microphones, multitrack studio equipment, valves hade given way to solid state technology, and eventually, digital processes,  levelling the playing field by lowering the bar.

Dynamic and tonal range is natural, bass dry and taut, top end crystalline, lots of punch, and engineered thinking for stereo, instrument placement is  convincing in trio and  sextet,  presence in the room. Combined with top notch playing, this album is a must, wish I had found it sooner. Surprisingly, I had not encountered it  in the flesh before, which suggests to me it’s somewhat rare.

 


Liner Notes detail:

Label: 2nd pressing: ABC Records © 1971 black and red label , Van Gelder stereo master.

Collector’s Corner

Original should be Orange/Black label, without the -A -B suffix on the label, but curiously, some samples also stereo stickered jacket over mono also with the suffix

By 1964 mono sales were waning, and hence rarer at auction in that more sought after format. With the shift in demand towards stereo, the presence of “”STEREO” stickers on mono covers is probably due to a surplus of mono covers having been printed and now needing to be used up.

Top 20 Ebay auction results still confirm this is a seriously undervalued title, whichever the format.

Chump-change for music and audio quality like this, and most of these are original orange-black ABC Paramount copies, and many mint/looks un-played condition. Seriously undervalued and overlooked.

I suspect original sales were disappointing, in which case I blame the label executive’s ill-judged choice of album cover picture (not an especially powerful image of Tyner which is poorly composed – eyes leading out of the frame.) The title “Today and Tomorrow”  is uninspired, suffering future fatigueOptimism about the future was a  ’50s post-war meme, an aspiration, which had worn thin in the wake failure to be realised.

Some people yearn for Yesterday, or the promise of jam Tomorrow. I recommend Today as the only place to be. It may not be much but it’s all we have, use it wisely, it may not last forever.

McCoy Tyner is still active, today. I decided after writing this piece I must pull his other titles off my shelf for another spin. I owe him nothing less, starting with Reaching Fourth.

Any thoughts, recommendations of other Tyner work, or reminiscences, welcome, as always, a good use of Today.

LJC

 

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8 thoughts on “McCoy Tyner: Today and Tomorrow (1963) Impulse

  1. I love my mono ABC Paramount Inc copy ! Picked up for essentially pocket change a few years ago. Does anyone know the exact issue # marking the end of “AM-PAR” and the beginning of “ABC Paramount, Inc” ? For some reason the appeal of MCoy Tyner is not as great others from the period. I enjoy listening to his BN output, yet these titles (and titles from Impulse) are very inexpensive compared to other artists. My gain I suppose.

    • Well I pressed “post” too soon…..thanks to a deeper dive into the LJC archives it appears that the changeover occurred between A-33 and A-34. And further, that “A side” “B side” suffixes were added beginning with AS-77. My copy of A-63 contains “A / B” suffixes in the deadwax, thus I have a 2nd pressing. Once again, thanks LJC !

  2. Late to the party but was busy listening to all those McCoy Tyner albums too… Much obliged. Coincidentally, I referred to LJC regarding a piece on Hank Mobley Quartet. You have a keen eye for covers, flawed and/or beautiful, so… Cheers, keep swinging! François

  3. Way over your red line but I love the trio recording for Palo Alto in 1985 called Just Feelin’ with Louis Hayes and Avery Sharpe. Full blooded recording and plenty of fire from all , cheap too. !

    • Red lines can be… umm, flexible. As the great Groucho said: “”Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”
      Palo Alto quality stands out from the ’80s crowd. Good recommendation.

  4. Hello London Jazz Collector, Thank you as always for your article and review about Today and Tomorrow. I will definately have to check out the Flophouse blog about this album (and see what else they they cover of course).

    I thought I had this McCoy album (sold my collection three plus years ago) but maybe I did not – just don’t remember at this point – had other Impluse LPs of his and most of, or all, his Blue Note recordings.

    After hearing his solo on the Selflessness LP’s My Favorite Things Live at Newport, when it came out in mid 1970, I began seriously listening to jazz and became a big McCoy Tyner fan; seeing him a few times, early 1971 – 1972 at Slugs, with yes, Sonny Fortune and Woody Shaw! (I posted about this in the comments section of your previous blog entry, an appreciation of Sonny Fortune)..

    Thanks also, for your discussion/ coverage of the mono and stereo versions of this album. I do not have the deep pockets for serious collecting, but with an interest in recordings, session history, and vinyl history, I find your writing about these details interesting….. – see below:

    Cheers & Best regards, Ed (from New York) Edward Fenning

    PS – There was an interesting article about the early days of EMI (in the years up to and before World War One** in the Harvard Business review (I came across the issue in a second hand bookstore in Boston, years back, and it now resides in a box somewhere deep in my storage unit), One thing I remember was that certain comedy records (yes, they had them back then too!) in French, could not be marketed in Belgium since the accents and speaking tempo of French dialects were different (the latter spoken slower) from the recordings of native speakers in France!

    **PS #2 – yes, the First World War ended one hundred years ago! Time passes.. When I was growing up and nine years old (1959) with a beginning interest in both World Wars, 1918 as just forty-one years prior, many vets were still alive, and it was definately still living history. And how strange it was, and did give a sense of how time passes, when the news a few years back, covered the passing of the very last still living veterans of World War One.

    For comparison, the American Civil War to me seemed eons ago (at that point the years reaching almost to its Centenary (over here the word used is ‘Centennial’) of its beginning. And, re: vets, the Civil War was living history no longer – the very last Civil War vet (Confederate) having died just that year, 1959. And for my father (born in 1920), growing up in upstate New York, even with 60 years having passed since 1865, there were still living Civil War veterans – he remembered one in his town (Middletown, NY) living just a few streets down and around the corner – he told me, this man was very old, with a very large and bushy white beard….

    – So Thank you for listening to my PS digressions, and as always looking forward to your next blog post.

  5. Great LP! I managed to get my hands on a later green label pressing that to my surprice sounded very good. Despite that the vinyl is thinner. Often I prefer the first 2 incarnations of the label but this time was ok!.

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