[JPL] McCoy Cooks in San diego

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Mon Sep 18 10:25:30 EDT 2006

Athenaeum Jazz at The Neurosciences Insitute: McCoy Tyner Trio

Tyner time
Posted: 09/17/2006 at 04:33:01 PM PDT
Updated: 09/17/2006 at 04:33:01 PM PDT
by Christian Hertzog

Noggins vigorously nodded and tootsies tapped at the Neurosciences 
Institute. <http://mccoytyner.com/>McCoy Tyner was in the house, and his 
infectious rhythms transformed the usually subdued Athenaeum jazz crowd 
into headbangers.

For many, it’s hard to resist Tyner’s percussive groove and thunderous 
chords. Accompanying John Coltrane for 15-to-20-minute versions of “My 
Favorite Things” back in the early 1960’s required Tyner to work in 
repetitive rhythms, at the time a novel approach to comping. Instead of the 
offbeat left-hand stabs of bop pianists, relying on the bass and drums to 
carry the rhythm, Tyner became an integral part in projecting the 
underlying beat for Coltrane’s group. That he still can ride a groove 
unlike most of his contemporaries and successors was adeptly illustrated 
Thursday evening.

Coltrane’s explorations of <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modal_jazz>modal 
improvisation also transformed the bop-influenced Tyner. Unlike the 
introspective, cool voicings and comping of Bill Evans on the influential 
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kind_of_blue>Kind of Blue, Tyner staked out 
an extroverted modal style which brought a strong blues sensibility and 
harmonies built on fourths and fifths into the vocabulary of jazz piano. 
Those qualities were in abundant display at his Trio’s concert. Their first 
number was a 12-bar-blues, but harmonized modally. His solos were awash in 
thick chords in both hands, not only in this number, but throughout the 
rest of his 9 o’clock set.

The tunes for the late set were mainly originals, although Tyner brought 
his roaring, pounding stylings to Ellington’s “In a Mellotone.” That Tyner 
isn’t limited to throbbing modal jazz was illustrated by his lone solo 
number, which ran the gamut from highly chromatic skittering in both hands 
to elaborately florid, out-of-tempo meanderings, arriving at the center of 
the solo in two walking-tempo stride choruses, interrupted briefly by more 
rapid passagework and trills that reminded this listener of Debussy’s 

While this was clearly McCoy Tyner’s show, valuable contributions were made 
by bassist Charnett Moffett and drummer 
<http://www.1619music.com/contact.html>Eric Kamau Gravatt. Moffett 
delighted in displaying virtuosic bass technique during his solos. His 
first solo was peppered with 
slaps and loud, bell-like harmonics, and like most of his solos that 
evening, it maintained the strong rhythmic drive established by Tyner. 
Moffett kept the groove going throughout his solo, and yet managed to knock 
out a nice melody in the process. Moffett’s other solos indulged in very 
high plucked notes with a sensual vibrato (all played in tune­bravo!), 
rapid bowed triplets played in the stratosphere, 
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Col_legno>beating the strings with the back 
of his bow, and the unexpected but delightful use of a wa-wa pedal (was 
there a touch of phase-shifter in there as well?) at the end of a solo, 
adding a real 1970’s funk sound to the number (a modal waltz). This last 
solo was particularly impressive, as Moffett performed with no assistance 
from the piano or drums.

As part of the rhythm section, Moffett laid down a solid foundation upon 
which Tyner could swing, but also was capable to elaborating on the musical 
textures when Tyner’s left hand temporarily (and frequently) assumed bass 

Given the interplay between Moffett and Tyner’s left hand, Gravatt was left 
with lots of space to fill out on his snares and toms, which he frequently 
took advantage of. When called upon to solo, Gravatt played musically 
enough, although as I’ve complained in the past I find drum solos 
and nothing Gravatt played that set convinced me otherwise. There was one 
noteworthy section in the third number, an up-tempo tune, in which Gravatt 
engaged in a dialogue with Moffett (the latter playing fast bowed 
tremolos), which served as a wonderful transition back to the full trio.

The only possible complaint about this concert was that­unlike just about 
all the Athenaeum’s other jazz concerts­one had to buy separate tickets to 
hear both sets. Sure, they do this in New York and L.A., but it’s still 
pretty unusual in San Diego. The crowd was on their feet, demanding more 
about 80 minutes after the trio began, but the show was sadly over. It’s 
also worth noting that both sets were sold out.

For a copy of the program, click 

1999-2005. sandiego.com.

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