Friday, September 29, 2006

McCoy Tyner, live in review

A few thoughts on the Beantown Jazz Fest opening concert, in real time (ah, the joys of simulcast):

Esperanza Spaulding's group opened, a straightahead/modern jazz quintet, with the added bonus that Esperanza (a bass player) sings. A good young set of Berklee players doing their thing, and you can take that any way you want to...

The main event: I'd heard this summer that due to health issues McCoy was not playing at 100%. Not the case tonight. His playing is as big, burly and technical as I remember it when I've seen him live. The rhythm section section- Charnett Moffett and a drummer who I don't know- is playing big and burly to complement him. The tunes are primarily modal vamps, a la "Miles' Mode" or the like.

The concert is billed as "A Celebration of Impulse Records". To me though, it seems to only be representing one piece of Impulse; that is, the modal mid-Trane. The rest of the lineup is probably not going to give it to you either- Wallace Roney, Liebman, and Steve Turre. I guess that development not too surprising, given that it is a big venue with big sponsors, and the allure of being big, acceptable, and testosterone-filled are obvious. They'll give you the image of Impulse without actually challenging you the way the label did. Still, I for one am a little disappointed. Impulse to me means Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, etc., and I don't think we'll get a whiff of that tonight.

Roney took a solo on his first tune up (something by Curtis Fuller that I didn't know) that was killing. I'll be completely honest, in case you couldn't tell by my commentary of "the list", I'm generally pretty dark on Roney- he looks like Miles, he plays like Miles, he even boxes like Miles, and it's grating. But tonight, he opened with two choruses of a very personal, very chromatic language with none of the affectations I usually associate with him. The solo wasn't perfect- I wish he'd let it breathe a little more, so we could absorb all the dense chromatic stuff he was throwing out- but it was light years from what I expected, and I wanted to hear more.

Oh, the other horn players. Turre is a little out of tune, and they're having trouble with Liebman's levels. Other than that, they sound fine.

God, that was a short set- he just closed, and the MC is asking for an encore. That was four tunes (45 minutes), and the horns only played on one of them. One more tune, another modal vamp, this one in 3.

If you're familiar with any of the post-Trane McCoy, this set is exactly what you expect. High quality, no surprises. I would've liked a surprise or two, but he is McCoy Tyner, and there is certainly something to be said for that.

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