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McCoy Tyner was announced, the crowd stood and applauded, a heroes welcome. Many in the audience worship the keys that Tyner dances upon. Bassist, Charnett Moffett, many including myself, worship the keys he plays in 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 had it not been for the next announcement that Tyner made, "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, scrapped, plucked, strummed and coaxed glorious sounds from the bass that were 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 league with the great and powerful J.J. Johnson at melodic, lyrical and exiting trombone playing.

The 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 Tyner composition was indeed a joyous expression of freedom musically and spiritually. Starting in a slower three four 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. Turre, an accomplished seashellist finished the song off with a marvelous conch shell solo, excellent, a true horn of plenty.

Thank you McCoy Tyner Septet, for sharing your Enlightenment. Enlightenment is a Milestone live recording of McCoy Tyner; this is one of the classic historical recordings, from the 1973 Montreux Jazz Festival.

Vijay Iyer

Opening for a living legend cannot be easy; playing the Toronto festival for the first time is no doubt cause for anxiety. Pianist Iyer who is a very accomplished technician was playing as if he were performing in a club. His playing was very delicate, intricate and soft spoken; he was having difficulty making a statement to the audience. Joining Iyer on stage, were his regular working musicians of Rudresh Mahanthappa, alto sax; Stephan Crump, bass; and joining on this occasion drummer Tyshawn Sorey.

Bass player Crump and drummer Sorey made a strong statement. Crump displayed a very clean and classic oriented style of bass playing. The drummer Sorey performed a drum clinic, varying time signatures, use of different mallets, brushes, synthetic and wooden sticks all to create a pallet of tonal complexity. All eyes were focused on this percussive machine, an incredible talent. You would think that his arsenal of bombastic attacks would exhaust themselves, but he just kept pulling off more fills and accents.

The final song "Machine Days," a frantic number that had Sorey pulling out all the stops, think hammer drilling incessantly and you have an idea of the pace. The complete set was an overwhelming display from a drumming virtuoso.

Article by Paul J. Youngman - KJA Jazz Advocate

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: McCoy Tyner Septet
  • Venue: Toronto Jazz Festival
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