Entertainment Weekly (1/19/96, p.53) - "...This clean, lean and mostly romantic outing, which includes swing versions of Beethoven and Chopin, gains in polish what it lacks in fire." - Rating: B
Personnel: McCoy Tyner (piano); Steve Davis (bass); Lex Humphries (drums).
Producer: Bob Thiele.
Reissue producer: Michael Cuscuna.
Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on March 4, 1963. Originally released on Impulse (39).
Digitally remastered using 20-bit technology by Erick Labson (MCA Music Media Studios).
As the title implies, this McCoy Tyner release is a low-key, after-hours affair. Far removed from the intensity of work with then-boss John Coltrane, Tyner stretches out on a fine mix of standards and bebop classics. The pianist, of course, always had his own fleet and rich way with ballads, in spite of the galvanizing marathon solos he became known for on live dates and his later experimental recordings with Coltrane. His ballad style is even touched with a bit of sentimentality, which thankfully is kept in check by a bevy of tasteful lines. Backed by the topnotch rhythm tandem of bassist Steve Davis and drummer Lex Humphries, Tyner finds the room to develop classic statements on highlights like Monk's "'Round Midnight," Ellington and Strayhorn's "Satin Doll," and Parker's "Star Eyes." On more easeful tracks like "For Heaven's Sake," Tyner utilizes his block chord approach to meditative and romantic effect. Rounded out by solid blues sides like "Blue Monk" and Tyner's own "Groove Waltz," Nights of Ballads & Blues qualifies as one of the pianist's most enjoyable early discs. ~ Stephen Cook