mon 15/08/2022

McCoy Tyner, Ronnie Scott's | reviews, news & interviews

McCoy Tyner, Ronnie Scott's

McCoy Tyner, Ronnie Scott's

First of two sold-out London shows from Coltrane pianist

Inspired to take up the piano by his neighbours Bud and Richie Powell, Philadelphia’s McCoy Tyner made jazz history as a member of the early-1960s John Coltrane quartet before emerging as a leader at Blue Note records. If his voicings seem any less distinctive today, it’s only because they have been so influential. And though his attack may have mellowed a little, that famous haymaker left hand remains very much in evidence several years after he blew out the candles on his 70th birthday cake.

But as much as his technical ability, what was most remarkable last night – along with a dapper white suit and a subwoofer-frequency speaking voice – was Tyner’s mastery of form. There was the odd blues, but many of his pieces were more linear, and more unusual, than the usual sequence of solos over cyclical chord structures, each ending with predictably climactic fireworks. It was music of collective, rather than individual, ego, the boundaries between one solo and another so blurred that even the well-drilled Ronnie’s audience sometimes failed to provide the ripples of applause that traditionally serve as jazz punctuation.
'The job satisfaction seems not to have faded, as anyone who saw Jools struggling to shut him up on Later... will attest'

Employing a tone so distant he could at times have been in the room next door, saxophonist Gary Bartz played a relatively low-key role, but the rhythm section proved equally adept both in the shadows and when taking centre stage. Gerald Cannon’s bass tone was rich and punchy, even high up in thumb position, while the young Francisco Mela effortlessly amalgamated Latin and swing rhythms in his energetic but nuanced drumming. Best of all, all four musicians actually looked as though they were enjoying themselves, Mela’s mouth hanging open in a toothy grin by the second set and Bartz at one point actually laughing out loud.
Tyner may not have altered his style dramatically in the last 50 years, but, like Thelonious Monk, he was so original that he had no need to. And though fast catching up with the most senior of jazz statesmen – Sonny Rollins, Abdullah Ibrahim, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, even Dave Brubeck – the job satisfaction seems not to have faded, as anyone who saw Jools struggling to shut him up on last night's Later... (see video below) will attest. “We want to have a purpose in life,” he announced after the final piece. “I think I’ve found it.”
Watch McCoy Tyner perform on Later... With Jools Holland

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It was an enjoyable concert, but the reviewer is rather too generous to the great McCoy Tyner. One dreads to see one's heroes in decline, but Tyner (who is just over 72, by the way) has lost so much of his former power and the characteristic dense voicings have diminished significantly. By his high standards, the execution was sloppy and I feel that the applause was muted simply because the audience was hesitant to praise indifferent work. Severely under-miked, Bartz's trademark "cry" was all but inaudible; he played well enough but did nothing exciting all night. Cannon and Mela, on the other hand, produced sterling work; the former played beautifully melodic lines with great intricacy. No grumbles about the selections either: the 100-minute performance included Moment's Notice, Ballad For Aisha, Blues On The Corner, Search For Peace and an extended Fly With The Wind. On its own terms, this was a good gig, but I believe one has to go back at least a decade to have experienced the overwhelming torrent of sound for which Tyner's groups are lauded. I would love to fool myself into believing that I had just witnessed another great performance by one of my favourite musicians, but sadly it wasn't to be. By the way, I do wonder what happened on "Later..."? Were they not told how long to play for? Or did Tyner feel that he should make the most of an all-too-rare TV appearance? And why did Jools twice refer to the four-piece group as the McCoy Tyner Trio?

Who is 'Taylor'? And - a jazz performance being about the collective? The performers enjoying themselves? GOSH. I think it's possible Gary Bartz was playing softly on purpose so as not to dominate. Beautiful pure tone from him throughout. I want to say, this is pretty sloppy writing. In a rush to be current you appear to have omitted any interesting content. And why would anybody want to write stuff so full of clichés?

I felt saddened at the Performance...Mccoy was clearly too frail to play,and in my opinion, it was a poor show from him and Gary Bartz...Bass and drums all be it fab!...were not enough to keep this show together...I left at Half Time so to preserve my Fond memories of seeing Mccoy Tyner "THE LEGEND" at his finest,years previous..

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