McCoy’s latest album is an atypical one, precisely because it features a plethora of gifted guitarists playing with his trio, made from Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette. If I say plethora, it’s mostly because the featured string players are among the best in the world and come from all part of the jazz spectrum, so much so that the five account for ten. Indeed, along with the veteran John Scofield, we find the “jazz-touche-à-tout” Bill Frisell, the very eclectic Bela Fleck (playing the banjo), Marc Ribot and the son of the legendary ABB-member Butch Trucks. This isn’t to say that Guitars is not a typical Tyner album, quite on the contrary, as you’ll only see him on the dual disc digipak’s cover. The second disc is a DVD featuring some studio footage of some of the album’s tracks plus some interview and musician bater and serious discussions.
From the five guitarists, it’s up to Ribot to open up the album with four numbers, but get ready for a surprise, because the opening Improvisation 2 is from far the most inaccessible and dissonant track of the album, but it’s kept thankfully short. Much more Tyner-like is a 6-mins version of Passion Dance, where Ribot has to crank up the volume in order to match the Tyner trio’s energy level. Excellent rapid-fire fusion-jazz, if you don’t mind my saying so. The much calmer 6-mins 500 Miles (also featured on the DVD) lets Ribot cruise/soar on a much lower amp sonic level, but its second part is less exciting. To close their collab, the Improvisation 1 is much more accessible (and quite longer), and has some slow meandering that could almost count as melody. But Before Ribot finished up his section of the disc, Tyner chose to include the two tracks that he recorded with Scofield, the first of which is an old-Trane reprise, Mr PC (also featured on the DVD), and the bluesier Corner, both fairly typical of Scofield’s usual stuff.
Up next is Bela’s Flecksoundscapes, where he scratches his banjo’s strings in two of his own compositions, including Trade Winds and Amberjack (both too Flecktonish to fit on a Tyner album) but also the Trane-face My Favourite Things, which is surprising but overall the version is enchanting. The two tracks featuring Derek Trucks are probably the most accessible with the more “electric” Slapback Blues and the “get-cuddly-with-the-mate” Greensleeves reprise (also featured on the DVD). The three Frisell tracks close the album with the delicious 8-mins mid-tempo Contemplation (also featured on the DVD), the slow and short Boubacar and the hypnotizing (read modal) Baba Drame and the closing
As for the DVD, it’s packed with over three hours of film (announced as such, anyway), including some of those exciting studio outtakes featured on the album and some less-inspiring a rehearsal at the Club Bluenote or Tyner’s piano-rental check-out. The DVD comes with a neat technology feat, which gives you the option to select the player you want to see or all four at once via the menu. Overall, this DVD is just as essential as the album itself, which not always the case, as the recent return To Forever 4 DVD somewhat missed the mark partially.