Fly with the Wind
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2008, Volume 15, #9
Written by John Metzger
Wed September 10, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
During the 1970s, jazz was a very strange beast. Spurred by Miles Davisí pursuits, the advent of fusion sent the genre spiraling in one direction, while the smooth polish that was applied to the resurrection of its mainstream wing sent it tumbling in another. Despite these distinctively different approaches, which pitted the technical proficiency of the former against the inoffensiveness of the latter, they had one thing in common: the conveyance of emotion typically was left by the wayside.
In hindsight, McCoy Tynerís Fly with the Wind was an attempt to bring both fusion and mainstream jazz under a single umbrella, while throwing a few twists and turns into the sonic stew for good measure. It is an intriguing album, one that is full of possibilities and potential, even if it doesnít always succeed fully in its quest. To create the effort, Tyner and producer Orrin Keepnews assembled a 10-piece string section to perform alongside his flute- and piano-powered jazz ensemble. The end result is a complicated meshing of classical textures with improvisational flights that is, at times, quite challenging to comprehend.
Throughout Fly with the Wind, the musicís foundation is provided by bass player Ron Carter and drummer Billy Cobham. In fact, with the exception of the pensive gracefulness of Beyond the Sun, which sounds as if it was meant for a film score, Fly with the Wind is a nonstop assault of punishing rhythmic grooves. There is a method to the madness of Cobhamís skin-pounding fury, of course, and the key to unlocking it lies in the way in which Tyner frames the violent undercurrents with his left hand, while painting extravagant flourishes with his right.
Given their frenetic, caffeinated cadences, the arrangements on Fly with the Wind are quite busy. Itís only when the ensembleís output falls away during the latter portion of Salvadore de Samba that the natural ease of Cobham and Carterís interplay is revealed. Tynerís nimble melodic phrasing is an inspiration to flautist Hubert Laws; it also serves as the link between the theatrical ambience of the string section and the energetic pulsations of the underlying rhythms.
Amazingly, the entirety of Fly with the Wind was captured live in the studio, which explains why the material often sounds as if it might burst apart at the seams at any given moment. Its weakness, however, is that its stunning, cerebral displays make it difficult for Tyner and his band to connect with an audience on a more primal level. Ĺ
Other Keepnews Collection Releases
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box