As far as jazz pianists go, McCoy Tyner is the living patriarch. As a member of John Coltrane's seminal band of the sixties, a sideman on so many key recordings and, of course, a leader with his own substantial solo career, Tyner has long ago secured a significant place in the history of jazz.
The one thing that I quickly noticed about Tyner besides these indisputable truths is his predilection for changing up formats from album to album as a way to revitalize his music. He's gone from solo piano all the way to big band, and everything in-between, including trios, quartets, quintets and sextets.
The first Tyner record I bought nearly a quarter century ago was Tyner leading a quartet that included an electric bass player and a violinist!
Well, 25 years later, and I find he hasn't changed that tendency at all. For this time out, Tyner got an idea that's one of his more unique ones: start with a trio that includes Ron Carter (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums), and invite a guitarist to guest on each tune; five different guitarists over fourteen selections.
There's more to this though — none of the five guitarists he selected are truly jazz guitarists in the pure sense, but all are so unique as to defy classification. That said, they all do possess more than a passing knowledge of the jazz idiom. These guitar players are: Marc Ribot, John Scofield, Derek Trucks, Bill Frisell, and banjo player Bela Fleck.
Ah, but McCoy had one more twist for this one-of-a-kind record: he let the guitarists themselves decide which two or three songs they wanted to play with Tyner's trio. Tyner was clearly interested in getting his guest six string slingers firmly invested in his project.
These guitarists were also given a lot of lead parts, often being the ones who state the main melody instead of Tyner. So much so, that sometimes Tyner is virtually a sideman on his own record. However, few can play that supporting role as well he does, and his presence is always felt. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Tyner shows a somewhat lighter touch on the piano than what he's normally known for.