In this recording, McCoy and Tony don’t hesitate to play with huge energy already from the first note. McCoy’s drive and flow are so strong that Tony doesn’t need to play time on the ride cymbal. He takes advantage of the freedom he has, to fill the gaps (rests) instead of playing unison with the melody. He creates counter-melodies orchestrated on the whole drumset, focused mainly on the toms.
Later in this tune, when Tony starts trading 8-bar-phrases with McCoy, we realize that his playing doesn’t change at all compared to when he comps McCoy’s solo. So, we come to the conclusion, that in this performance, the roles of soloist and accompanist don’t exist. Both musicians have equal roles at all times.
Tony’s playing is very busy all the time.. but somehow it works! Someone would say that since this is a duo, Tony has plenty of musical space, which allows him to play in this way. However, McCoy plays a lot of notes already from the beginning of his solo, which theoretically wouldn’t give Tony much freedom to improvise.
What can we learn from this example?
So after all, It’s the trust and confidence of Tony (towards himself & his bandmate) that matter in this example. He is not afraid to play. On the contrary, he puts all his energy becoming ONE with McCoy Tyner and I am sure he could do the same even with a bass player added in the band.