By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

“Enlightenment” on the road from Providence

On Saturday night, during a long drive home from Providence, I listened to the pianist McCoy Tyner‘s “Enlightenment” in its entirety for the first time in a long while. It’s one of those albums that you approach with a degree of seriousness, so normally I tell myself I’ll listen when I can sit still and concentrate. But we all know how few those opportunities are.

Recorded live in 1973 at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, “Enlightenment” is similar in intent and spiritual approach to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” on which Tyner played. Each combines simple, repetitive melodies and rhythms with dense improvisations. There are some wonderful moments in “Enlightenment.” Among my favorites is Joony Booth’s bass solo at the beginning of the closing track, “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit.” After a few stumbles, he plays a passage so beautiful you’d swear he was singing.

I was introduced to “Enlightenment” when I was still in high school by the drummer in our band, who always had exquisite taste. Thus it’s more meaningful to me than “A Love Supreme,” even though the latter may be a greater achievement. I saw Tyner twice during the 1970s. The first time may have been at the Jazz Workshop near Copley Square, though I can’t be sure. The second was at the Paradise.

Tyner is a great artist and a great soul. I can’t recommend “Enlightenment” strongly enough.

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  1. Steve Stein

    Tyner is my all-time favorite pianist. Saw him a lot in the 70s and 80s. This kind of jazz makes for the best road music. My favorite is Miles’s “In A Silent Way”, but “Enlightenment” certainly deserves another listen. (I’ve got to rip it from the vinyl, though.)

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: “In a Silent Way” is too quiet for my car!

  2. Dan,

    Nice surprise here! I’ve had the pleasure of seeing McCoy Tyner multiple times at the Regattabar at the Charles Hotel. Great pianist. Last I heard, he’s still out there touring.


  3. steve babcock

    I was thrilled to find a vinyl copy of this album at a store in Ithaca over the summer. I like your bold comparison to A Love Supreme, Dan. The playing is dense, but not without transcendent tunesmithery.

  4. Steve Stein

    My son saw him down in NC last month. He was waffling over whether or not to go, and I told him McCoy was a must-see. He was blown away.

  5. Jack Sullivan

    At the risk of sounding like old farts I used to hate listening to, posts like this make me pine for the old Jazz Workshop and Paul’s Mall. Saw Tyner there (and way too many other greats to mention here) in the mid-70s but missed what most say were his two best performances at 733 Boylston, early 60’s with Coltrane’s quartet and a 1978 set that I found online a couple years ago (can I post this here Dan? ) Not for nothing, Dan, but have you ever listened to “Friday Night in San Francisco”? It’s a live acoustic guitar jam (with one studio track) by John McLaughlin (post-Mahavishnu Orchestera), Al diMeola and Paco deLucia. If you drop your diMeola judgments (you being the generic you because most people have them), it’s one fo the all-time great loner listening albums ever recorded.

  6. Al Fiantaca

    @ Jack: I know what you mean about missing the Jazz Workshop, and its bigger brother the upstairs, Paul’s Mall. I saw Larry Coryell perform at the Workshop around ’72. Thinking back about it, it seems like the place was a terrible fire threat with the narrow stairs down to the basement where the Workshop was located. The other interesting thing in the “old fart” category is how many times in this thread an artist’s recording was called an album. Nowadays, they call them CDs, or who knows what? To me, it’s an album regardless of whether it’s on vinyl, magnetic tape, or CD. It’s the collection that counts, not the medium it’s reproduced on.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Al and @Jack: Musicians I saw at Paul’s Mall or the Jazz Workshop included Freddie King (twice), John Mayall, Graham Parker and the Rumour, Miles Davis and Muddy Waters. I got to shake Miles’ hand as he was walking down the aisle and make a request of Muddy as he came out of his dressing room and sat behind us while his band played without him. (We requested “Mojo,” to which he replied, “You don’t want to hear that shit.”) Great, great venue. And tickets were less than $10 if I’m remembering correctly.

  7. Jack Sullivan

    @Dan, we could have been sitting next to each other at Mayall or Davis. A couple times. And add Taj Mahal, Charlie Mingus, Grover Washington Jr and Herbie Hancock to my list of great nights there. Couldn’t tell you the price but it was cheap enough that I went regularly. And stumbled up those stairs many a night, @Al. But it was one (or they are two, dependng on your view) of the greatest venues the city ever had. And I agree about the albums. I will always call them albums and now my 8-year-old grandson calls them albums and he sits with me listening to Coltrane live at Newport when I play his “Favorite Things” album — from a download.

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