Tuesday, December 09, 2008

McCoy Tyner - New York, NY - 2008-12-09

McCoy Tyner, Blue Note, New York, NY, December 9, 2008.

Let's get discussion of the line-up out of the way first:

McCoy Tyner, piano
Gerald Cannon, bass
Eric Kamau Gravatt, drums
Savion Glover, tap dancer
Gary Bartz, MC (and more importantly, saxophone)
Marc Ribot, guitar

McCoy Tyner is my favorite living musician, jazz or otherwise. For over a year I have been on an uber-nerd quest to gather every recorded note of his I can find. It is an on-going project, something I think and hope will take years to finish. You can follow the progress with these links:

1990s (haven't posted any of those yet...stay tuned)

Anyway, McCoy is in the midst of a run of shows at the Blue Note to mark his 70th birthday and to promote his new record, Guitar. Two sets and a different special guest each night. The guests include Ribot, Joe Lavano, Ravi Coltrane and Bill Frisell. I would go every night if I could but I can't so the Ribot night was a no-brainer for me. Ribot is the Forrest Gump of musicians...every time I get into an artist, Ribot shows up as a collaborator or sideman...

McCoy covered so much ground in the Ribot sets...He hit some of his own best compositions, nodded to the Msaters (Coltrane, Monk and Duke), and displayed a phenomenal level of musicianship on what is arguably one of the most physically demanding instruments to play well in old age.

McCoy still has the intense left hand he is known for as well as the nimble right. For the first set we sat just over his right shoulder and had a great view (his hands were reflected in the finish of the polished Steinway which was a treat as well)...The set started with his own Sama Layuca (from the album of the same name) and ended about 70 minutes later with Trane's Moment's Notice. In between, Ribot ripped some wild solos (after the second set I told him he doesn't have a cliche in his body and he replied, "well, I'm trying to learn some") Gary Bartz proved his relevance and Savion Glover...well...he tap danced...when it worked (and it often did) there was a tremendous interplay with the other players. When it didn't, he seemed oblivious to the dynamics and stomped through their playing. My biggest complaint with the set was not his presence, but the fact that the board he tapped on was mic'ed and way too prominent in the mix. The taps were going to ring out, they did not need to be amplified...

For the second set, which opened with an absolutely smoking take on McCoy's Fly With the Wind (a good 10 - 15 minute airing), Savion was only present for two songs and seemed to fit in much better. This set was much more fiery and intense as well. McCoy and the rest of the band were clearly loosened up.

70 is young these days but McCoy will not be around forever. I can't see how he can continue to play at this level much longer...though he takes his personal care very seriously, he even adheres to a special diet which he discusses here so who knows...the point is, see McCoy while you can. As the last living member of the classic John Coltrane quartet he is an important figure in jazz history. It is amazing, he was only 27 when his time with Trane came to an end. he could have never worked again and been a jazz giant. But he kept going and became an innovator in spiritual jazz, Latin, big band, in his use of strings and other instrumentation...he avoided embarrassing fusion (ignore the record with Santana from the 80s, we all make mistakes)...played with the cream of the horn players, from Pharoah, to Joe Henderson, Gary Bartz, Azar Lawrence, to Joe Lovano today...The guy is the shit!

If you come across recordings of these sets please let me know. There are some absolutely lovely photos here and the Blue Note's site has some video from soundcheck posted.

Commercially released version of some of the tracks he played last night...
Sama Layuca
Moment's Notice
Fly With the Wind