McCoy Tyner Sahara on Numbered-Edition Hybrid SACD from Mobile Fidelity
Named Album of the Year by DownBeat Critics Poll
Legendary Pianist’s 1972 Milestone Debut Garnered Two Grammy Nominations: Mastered from the Original Master Tapes for Sublime Sonics
McCoy Tyner’s Sahara is a seminal jazz record in more ways than one. In the years leading up to its release, the legendary pianist tread water. After spending six formative years in John Coltrane’s peerless quartet, Tyner left to start his own band and signed to Blue Note. But the association didn’t last. He regrouped with a new band featuring reedist Sonny Fortune, bassist Calvin Hill, and drummer Alphonse Mouzon and signed to Milestone Records. It was a fortuitous move. Tyner’s solo career took off with the modal Sahara, which immediately garnered rave reviews from the mainstream and independent press.
“The music itself might have been produced a half-decade ago, which diminishes its impact, intensity and, finally, great beauty not a whit. There are moments during "Ebony Queen," with McCoy's ostinato figure providing the basis of the tune, in which the music seems on the verge of levitating itself off the turntable and into the beyond.”
–James Isaacs, Rolling Stone, November 1972
Writers for jazz authority DownBeat also took notice, and collectively named Sahara the Record of the Year. The badge fit. Treating the session as a coming-out party, Mouzon rides the drums and cymbals like a jockey while Fortune perfectly plays the role of unselfish foil, patiently laying low until it’s time for him to unleash fiery saxophone solos. But it’s Tyner’s clustered chords, radiant touch, and spry two-handed fills—cavernous, thick, expressive, uplifting, colorful—that make Sahara a must-have.
“The group acts as the opposing face to Cecil Taylor’s brand of energy music: controlled by harmonic and metrical ground-rules, nobody flies for freedom, but there is a compensating jubilation in the leader’s mighty utterance. “Sahara” and “Ebony Queen” best express that here, although the piano solo “A Prayer for My Family” is a useful oasis of calm. Later Tyner records would be better engineered and realized, but this one remains excitingly fresh.”
–Richard Cook & Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD
Mastered from the original analog master tapes, Mobile Fidelity’s revealing version puts any sonic deficiencies to rest. The acoustic properties and orchestral tones of Tyner’s piano register with full-bodied immediacy, while the invisible cover that had been obscuring the full range of high and low frequencies is removed. You can hear why he prefers a wood and metal instrument with gut strings. Every impressionistic detail and ringing note is here, as evidenced by “Valley of Life” (featuring Tyner on koto and Fortune on the flute) and the mellow solo poem “A Prayer for My Family.” Tyner modeled the album around staying spiritually in touch with nature. That aim is reflected by astoundingly organic, pure sound that paints a lifesize image of Tyner's grand piano.
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McCoy Tyner Sahara Track Listing:
1. Ebony Queen
2. A Prayer For My Family
3. Valley Of Life