Friday, March 5
Jazz Alley Friday, March 5
Friday, March 5
The last time a bill with McCoy Tyner came through town, they headlined at the Moore. Unsurprisingly, with a couple press blurbs and some plugs on KBCS, Jazz Alley was packed to the gills for last night's all-star jazz showcase. There were more Grammy winners and living legends (collectively, the group has played, recorded, and toured with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Chet Baker, Charles Mingus, Charlie Hayden, Elvis Costello, and Pat Metheny, just to scratch the surface) per square foot on that small little stage than you could hope to cram anywhere.
It was a reverent and elegant scene. This always impresses me about true jazz masters: how professional they are. Polished, poised, working musicians who dress up for a gig, who watch each other take their solos with respect and enthusiasm. Despite their individual accomplishments, Tyner's ensemble seemed genuinely shocked to be sharing the stage with him; they faced the pianist (perhaps most famous for joining John Coltrane's quartet in his early 20s) and listened intently every time the old-timer (who, in his strapping youth, looked like a member of the Black Panthers) introduced one of his original songs, joked with the audience, or heckled the band. "Remember," he reminded them in a hushed voice, "You're in church now."
Tyner's style was seamless and instinctive. He never tested the crowd's patience with indulgent solos, but effortlessly showed his chops at every turn, changing on a dime from meditative explorations to traditional forms. Every great improvisational artist has a tic that reveals itself as they work further and further into a song, like a loud hum over their instrument; Tyner's was his constantly working jaw. It's so great to observe these little idiosyncrasies: it's one of those gifts live music every now and then delivers on.
After a set of mostly original songs and a frisky cover of Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood," Tyner ended the set on a tender solo piece with such delicate finesse that the entire house stood and applauded. It was a compact performance that seemed to fly by without any regard to time, but, like all good jazz, was a perfect balance of free expression and discipline, and left the crowd with a serious buzz.
The crowd: Older, mid-50s, serious jazz heads and be-boppers.
Overheard in the crowd: "I hope I have as much power in my playing--10 years from now--as he has."