MCCOY TYNER — Sahara (review)

MCCOY TYNER — Sahara album cover Album · 1972 · Post Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
As the jazz-fusion frenzy was taking place in the early 70s McCOY TYNER was adapting just a bit differently than his contemporaries. While many were going full-on jazz-rock-fusion, TYNER opted for a different approach. SAHARA takes on a whole new world of hard bop that gets lumped into the world of post bop. It seems TYNER was aiming for a new kind of fusion where he took the hard bop that came before and incorporated many Middle Eastern and African influences into the mix to create something really innovative and fresh. The title of the album and the album cover offer a glimpse into the reality of this album for the SAHARA desert is bleak and unforgiving as is the landscape depicted on the cover where an African-American is sitting in the midst of a seemingly devastated urban landscape and yet despite it all comes up with the inspiration to create one of the most revered jazz albums of all time. Not too shabby at all.

First of all let me say that this album eschews one of the things that turns me off most about jazz albums, namely the mandatory ballad. This is not, of course, strictly a jazz problem but one of music in general where the artist decides to throw on a ridiculously out of character slow number to appeal to an audience that doesn't really dig the whole scene of where they're coming from. Although the track “A Prayer For My Family” is supposed to be that slower number of sort, it is done with outstanding class and respect to the fact that this is a whole album that should flow from beginning to end and not take a breather to appeal to the “lesser appreciatives” out there. The sensibilities of continuity are flawless on this album and although there are major differences in tracks, there never is an incident of “OMG! WTF is that doing on here!.”

One of the unique aspects of this album emerges on track number 3: “Valley Of Life,” which sees TYNER going Japanese with this interesting inclusion of koto, flute and percussion playing in addition to his usual piano acrobatics. The true highlight of this amazing album is the finale title track which takes us on a true journey of jazz magnanimity. It is a 23 minute plus energetic delivery of awesome jazzitude that starts off with a very trippy intro that sounds like an elephant wailing through the mist with some Japanese instruments accompanying and some African drums providing some percussion but eventually showcases TYNER's virtuosic piano abilities in a hard bop energetic frenzy that ends up delivering the absolute best of jazz band sensibilities guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face in disbelief. All the instrumentations on this lengthy track are outstanding and it doesn't outstay its welcome for one tiny bit.

SAHARA has been deemed one of the best jazz album of all time for good reason. It doesn't leave a moment where you can be bored or ignore its absolute brilliance. This is one of those rare jazz albums where you can be blown away from the first playing but glean excellence from every subsequent listen. For me personally I have to rank SAHARA as one of my all time favorite albums PERIIOD and this is coming from a puPPy who likes a whole lot of different types of music.

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