June 2006

McCoy Tyner Septet
at the Toronto Jazz Festival
June 29, 2006Main StageToronto
by Paul J. Youngman with photos by Roger Humbert
McCoy Tyner was announced, the crowd stood and applauded, a hero’s welcome. Many in the audience worship the keys that Tyner dances upon. Bassist Charnett Moffett and drummer Eric Kamdu Gravatt took to the stage. Tyner was not with them, regroup, locate McCoy Tyner and take two. The audience breathed a collective sigh of relief. Thankfully, nothing had gone awry and all were on stage shortly. Tyner gazed out over the audience and affirmed his joy at returning to the Toronto festival. McCoy Tyner had last appeared at the Toronto Jazz Festival in 1999.

The trio started off with a medium paced song that Tyner composed and dedicated to Coltrane, “Trane Time” as Tyner said, “To my teacher John Coltrane.” They also performed a stirring rendition of Ellington’s “In A Mellow Tone”. Tyner effortlessly performed lighting fast arpeggios and thunderously huge cords, filling downtown Toronto with a glorious ambiance.

The concert would have been entertaining enough with the trio. But then, McCoy Tyner announced, “Please welcome, Wallace Roney, trumpet; Steve Turre, trombone; Donald Harris, alto sax. and Eric Alexander, tenor sax.”

The performance took on new meaning with the addition of the New Wave of jazz icons who propelled the concert into the stratosphere. We were off to the races with the first verse of “Impressions” with the Coltrane tune giving ample opportunity for every player to perform a masterful improvisational solo. Of special mention is the bass solo by Moffett. He bowed, slapped, banged, scraped, plucked, strummed and coaxed glorious sounds from the bass, outrageous and remarkable. Drummer Gravatt was pushing the metre from moment one in a valiant effort to compete with the overwhelming cacophony of sounds. Trumpet player Wallace Roney played some exceptional lines. He has the complete package and is the keeper of the flame when it comes to maintaining the hard bop style of the greats. Steve Turre is one of the greats, in the same league as the great and powerful J.J. Johnson for melodic, lyrical and exciting trombone playing.

The Thelonius Monk tune “I Mean You” was performed with an incredibly upbeat spirit from all the performers. Harris on alto sax and Alexander on tenor sax trading horn licks were fantastic; these guys were on fire during this performance. Individually they have excellent technique and produce big bold beautiful tones, together they are perfection.

The encore number “Happy Days”, a McCoy Tyner composition, was indeed a joyous expression of freedom musically and spiritually. Starting in a slower three-quarter time feel and progressing to a romping six/eight feel with all horn players oblivious to any time constraints and blowing up a storm of emotion. Steve Turre, an accomplished seashellist finished the song off with a marvellous conch shell solo. Excellent. A true horn of plenty.

Thank you McCoy Tyner Septet, for sharing your Enlightenment.

McCoy Tyner

Eric Kamau Gravatt
McCoy Tyner Septet
by David Fujino with photo by Roger Humbert
Vijay Iyer's 'hero' — McCoy Tyner — opened up the second half of the evening*.

Instead of a 'storming the ramparts' approach, McCoy began easily with "Trane Ride", a medium tempo tune that resembled, to these ears, "Speak Low".

When he got to "Satin Doll", we remembered just how beautifully McCoy can play a ballad.

But it was "Stolen Moments" — Oliver Nelson's yearning classic theme — that showcased McCoy's band of star soloists.

Trumpeter Wallace Roney must be singled out for his flare and intensity. Donald Harrison for his searching alto lyricism. And Charnett Moffit honored for (literally) playing so much bass.

In the centre of it all was drummer Gravatt, always keeping the unconscious in tow, his stick work immaculate.

It was strange that more wasn't made of the septet. The horn arrangements were similar from tune to tune, so we can only conclude that McCoy favoured a looser format for the septet.

Also, McCoy's present fondness for dark chord bashes at the end of choruses, has been duly noted and enjoyed. I found his bashes a simple, interesting contrast with Vijay Iyer's less percussive style.

McCoy Tyner
I was glad to hear McCoy and company.

Glad they came to town.

The septet
McCoy Tyner – piano
Charnett Moffet – bass
Eric Kamau Gravatt – drums
Wallace Roney – trumpet
Steve Turre – trombone and conch shells
Donald Harrison – alto saxophone
Eric Alexander – tenor saxophone
We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
• •
Paul J. Youngman
The Live Music Report

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