McCoy Tyner Quartet / Stanley Clarke Quartet Featuring Hiromi
Contrary to what had been announced, pianist McCoy Tyner's all-star Quartet took to the stage with a very syncopated number, led by tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane. Bassist Esperanza Spalding followed his grooves with clever arpeggios, while drummer Francisco Mela accented his notes with incredible precision. The tune had a bit of a Latin vibe, which got Spalding into a certain comfort zone that allowed her to find her own place and develop from there.
It was clear from the outset that many fans were there for Spalding, and Tyner responded to that by giving her a lot of space. The fact that Coltrane seemed to have had some problems with his axe might have contributed to this (as the saxophonist took very few solos), but Spalding had a lot of space to exercise her prowess, to the delight of the fans, who loudly cheered her lengthy solos. Tyner had a number of solo instrumental interludes between numbers, and many inspiring solos, but it was clearly Spalding's night, and she took advantage of that by leaning back and forth as she found her voice within each tuneincluding a twelve-bar blues that closed a set that seemed to all too short.
After a short break, bassist Stanley Clarke took the stage with the same that played on his latest release, Stanley Clarke Band (Telarc, 2010). He looked extremely serious as he played the first number on electric bass, and when a fan screamed "School Days," he sternly turned and responded with a clear "no."
Throughout the first number, he seemed to feed from pianist Hiromi Uehara}, who frantically jumped and smiled as if becoming one with the piano. Clarke cheered her on with subtle notes, with drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr. picking up on them and adding improvised accents that made the audience feel as if they were at a rock concert. But then the pulse changed back to a simpler groove that reminded everyone what was going on: pure, spontaneous improvisation.
Clarke then turned to his upright, which he used for the remainder of the set, for Return To Forever's "No Mystery," where technical problems resulted in keyboardist Ruslan Sirota bravely taking over the bass line halfway through Uehara's solo. Clarke sat there in frustration for a while, but once the issue was resolved he returned to his usual self, adding clever notes to his lines as the tune continued.
One of the highlights from Clarke's set was a more electrified version of "Paradigm Shift," from Jazz In The Garden (Heads Up, 2009). In this new take, Clarke played the upright like an electric bass, which gave space for both Uehara and Sirota to exercise their individualities. He also paid tribute to the late Joe Henderson with a stirring take on the saxophonist's "Black Narcissus," which Clarke described as a "great masterpiece."
It was a stunning evening of great talent that deserved to be recorded for posterity.