When everybody starts naming the world's greatest pianists you always get the usual roll call: Ashkenazy, Serkin, Gilels, you know, the classical people. But how about this nomination: McCoy Tyner? After all, why must we always call Tyner one of the world's greatest living jazz musicians. For that matter why can't that roll call read Tyner, Monk, and Taylor.
Well anyway, we know the reason why it doesn't. But if you listen to the most recent McCoy Tyner stuff you will have to accord him a position much larger than the small niche of jazz master. Tyner has pioneered his own style of romantic piano, a sound that has come into its own within the last three years, and totally asserts itself in his latest album, Focal Point.
Tyner's course is a strange one. He spent his formative years playing with John Coltrane, sticking with Trane for more than five years. His excellent piano work on albums like "My Favorite Things," both fast and slow versions, and on the series of Coltrane quartet albums of the 1963-64 period, identified Tyner as a standout on his own right.
But when Trane died in 1967, leaving Tyner to fend for himself, the mellow piano player turned vicous. He stayed that way right through the early portion of the 1970s. Albums like "sama Layuca" and "Song of the New World" lost that pleasing sound that he had created with Trane.
By the time Tyner arrived in Boston two years ago the soft, sweet music was all but gone. Playing selections from "Enlightenment," Tyner would continually start as if he were playing a beautiful romantic tune, and then, after he had everyone captured, he would turn on the jackhammers.
But within the last two years Tyner has apparently reversed himself. At least two of the four sides of "Atlantic" sounded like the Tyner of Coltrane days. The arrangements were a little silky on "Fly Like the Wind" but the music was sweet. "Trident" again was pleasing, and "Vocal Point" marks the full swing.
One warning about Tyner's shows: he doesn't like to play a long time. Don't think you can get around this by staying at the second show because it will cost you and he plays the same thing pretty much the same way (never exactly the same) in the second show. At Paul's Mall beginning Monday.
Sun Ra is in this week, presenting an 8 pm concert this Saturday at the Alumni Auditorium on the Northeastern campus in Boston. Sun Ra is really great live, and this is pretty much one of those rare Boston opportunities.
Don't say I didn't tell you about that Chick Corea concert. Word has it that his Sunday show at 7 in the Orpheum is sold out. But maybe it's like those great Broadway shows where if you tried hard enough you can get a ticket. That's the first and last time Corea will ever be linked with Broadway.
Don't forget about that great series of jazz films at Off the Wall, 861 Main St. in Central Square. They've got films of Lester Young, Diz, Bessie Smith and many other greats.
All this week the Jazz Workshop has Rahsaan Roland Kirk, the brilliant horn player who is trying to develop a solo horn style after a stroke wiped out his ability to play three horns. He's as great as usual.
The Rise Club has Joe Chambers through Saturday. With Chambers is Ray Mantilla on conga, Larry Young on organ and Jeremy Steig on flute. Rise has really been getting the good acts lately.
From May 23 to May 28 Art Blaky and the Jazz Messengers move into the Rise. You can get tickets for those concerts at Bojos.
The Crusaders play at the Berklee Performance Center on Friday, May 20 at 8 pm.
Paul's Mall features Norman Connors through the weekend, sets are 8:30 and 11.
Flora Purim is with Procol Harum Tuesday at the Harvard Square.
Sandy's Jazz Revival in Beverly is featuring the "boss of the blues singers" Big Joe Turner and his Kansas City Band featuring dummer Jo Jones, through May 22.
Locally Ryles in Inman Square has the Ed Wells Trio through Saturday.