Alphonse Mouzon, a great jazz drummer, has died

As 2016 draws to a close, another great artist has died. This one, though, was not a celebrity. Alphonse Mouzon was a terrific jazz drummer with a long, varied career. I know him best from McCoy Tyner’s Enlightenment (above), a suite that was recorded live at Montreux in 1973. (If you’ve never heard it, I recommend it. It is deeply spiritual in the manner of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, on which Tyner played.)

According to the New York Times obit, Mouzon “learned this fall that he had neuroendocrine cancer and used a crowdfunding platform to help pay for treatment.” Not that the deaths of Prince, David Bowie, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, et al. weren’t every bit as tragic. But that’s a detail you don’t often see when reading about the death of a musician who at one time was fairly well known.

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“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.