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Zwee Dot: How Kelly Sill Listens to Music – McCoy Tyner’s “Passion Dance”

by Kelly Sill

In this month’s “Zwee Dot,” Kelly Sill pays homage to McCoy Tyner by sharing his listening notes to “Passion Dance” from one of his favorite albums, The Real McCoy. It was recorded on April 21, 1967, at Van Gelder Studio and released in October of the same year.

“Passion Dance”

From the recording

The Real McCoy

1967, Blue Note

McCoy Tyner – Piano, composer

Joe Henderson – Tenor sax

Ron Carter – Bass

Elvin Jones – Drums

0:01 And the cut begins

0:05 Four bars of Elvin Jones for the intro, not so easy to follow

0:09 The sound and the energy are incredible

0:12 A simple, dancing melody

0:15 The sound of Ron and Elvin together is just perfect

0:19 Joe and McCoy right together on the melody

0:22 Here’s the bridge

0:26 The rhythmic figure changed nicely

0:32 Now the change was harmonic

0:38 Back to the top section again

0:43 This is beautifully consistent

0:56 Back to another bridge

1:02 Elvin’s cymbal work is a dance in itself

1:12 Wow – the first four bars of McCoy’s solo is about the best thing I’ve ever heard

1:16 Ron Carter is on fire!

1:21 I’ve never heard Ron dance around as much as he is doing right now

1:26 And McCoy’s triplets are just propelling everything along

1:30 Beautiful melody by McCoy

1:34 And McCoy playing those big “ones” every four bars!

1:43 Really bending the melodies

1:48 Hemiola in the left hand

1:58 The energy is just popping

2:05 Both hands are doing something different, and they’re doing it as ostinatos

2:08 McCoy sure has a lot of chops

2:11 Such beautiful development

2:28 Now he’s playing a different chord every dotted quarter note

2:41 More hemiolas – perfect for this energy

2:51 Ron playing beautiful syncopation

3:05 What power!

3:19 Definitely paying attention to the quarter notes!

3:23 Really building it up

3:36 Creating a strong theme

3:44 And in comes Joe!

3:50 Starting with a simple idea, and Ron answers him with a giant slur

4:07 Great, Joe, and Ron really coming to the front

4:18 Joe playing beautiful flurries

4:27 Great melodic development

4:40 Only Joe could do that

4:53 Gorgeous connections

4:58 Tremendous melodic development!

5:15 All four totally in

5:33 Unbelievable! What rhythmic and harmonic power!

5:50 Joe can sit on one or two notes and make them paramount

5:53 Now Elvin plays a solo

6:00 He’s clearly in time, but usually not easy to follow

6:16 So far it’s clear

6:33 It’s a little iffy

6:39 Joe and McCoy came in one eighth note apart

6:41 That small mistake is nothing in context of this tremendous cut

6:50 What a beautiful head

7:17 One more “A” section

7:29 A final bridge

7:44 And they go into a blazing 4/4 to take the cut out

7:56 They’re full-out; it sounds like that they can go on forever

8:06 McCoy playing dotted quarters again; very powerful

8:22 This is really amazing

8:35 The cut is fading out

8:42 I hate to hear it end

8:47 Another really great cut!

Ron Carter and Elvin Jones comprise one of the greatest bass-drums combinations that ever existed. Although they’ve each played on thousands of records, they recorded only three times together.



Kelly Sill has been a mainstay of the Chicago jazz scene for more than 45 years. After receiving his bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he moved to Chicago. 

He has since performed and recorded with a vast array of jazz artists, including Art Blakey, Joe Henderson, Art Farmer, Eddie Jefferson, Clark Terry, Cedar Walton, Herb Ellis, Woody Shaw, Hank Jones, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel, Chris Potter, Ernie Watts, Bob Mintzer, Mel Torme, Anita O'Day, Janice Borla, Jack Mouse, Jackie McLean, Joey DeFrancesco, Donald Byrd, Bobby Watson, Eddie Harris, Scott Hamilton, Victor Lewis, Clifford Jordan, Bucky Pizzarelli, and many more. 

He has performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival, Ravinia Festival, the Elkhart Jazz Festival, the Red Sea Jazz Festival, the Thessaloniki Concert Hall in Greece, and Symphony Center (Orchestra Hall) in Chicago.

Kelly has served on the faculties of Northwestern University, Interlochen Arts Academy, Northeastern Illinois University, Lake Forest College, DePaul University, and Northern Illinois University. He currently teaches at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. For questions or comments please contact him at or visit his website at

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