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McCoy Tyner/Alfredo Rodriguez: Toronto, December 11, 2010

Alain Londes By

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McCoy Tyner / Alfredo Rodriguez
Koerner Hall
Toronto, Canada
December 11, 2010

As part of the Aspects of Oscar series, featuring top jazz pianists performing in honor of the late Oscar Peterson, this particular evening brought two solo piano performances to Toronto's Koerner Hall: aspiring young Cuban talent, Alfredo Rodriguez, opened the show; while legendary giant, McCoy Tyner, completed the double bill.

It's likely that most of the audience attended the show with Tyner in mind. Rodriguez was, perhaps, a discovery for those unfamiliar with this young prodigy, just like the moment when producer Quincy Jones noticed him at the Montreux Jazz Festival. His style is a combination of percussive and classical, as well as Cuban. Based on this evening's selection, Rodriguez has a dominant classical side to his playing, hesitating somewhat with the jazz language but, no doubt, he will continue to evolve as a talent. Keith Jarrett came to mind in Rodriguez's drawing on the sounds of Ravel and Debussy, in addition to the pianist's emotive and contemplative textures. Rodriguez's melodies were couched in a camouflage of abstraction, as on his version of "Body and Soul," where the melody was hinted at, but only briefly. He showed something of a humorous touch on "Bare Necessities," a tune made popular by Walt Disney; here, again, the contemplative piece progressed with scattered hints at the melody, before coming to an abrupt halt. It then continues towards another musical thought before closing on the theme itself.

During a post-intermission interview conducted by Mervon Mehta, Tyner talked about his initial foray into music. His first jazz hero was Bud Powell, someone with whom he invited to come play in his mom's beauty shop, while he met Oscar Peterson much later, during a tour with John Coltrane.

Tyner played a short, forty-minute set in, perhaps, the best context to witness echoes of yesteryear. His last local performance was during the 2006 Toronto Jazz Festival, where he played with other major players including trombonist Steve Turre and saxophonist Eric Alexander. Here, however, while keeping both the rhythm and the bass line in motion, he moved through comfortable tunes like "All The Way" and Duke Ellington's "In A Mellow Tone."

The spirit of the classic John Coltrane Quartet's popular arrangement to "Afro Blue" was mainly felt in the waltz-time "African Village," which followed a similar melodic pattern. Tyner played a bit of Thelonious Monk for the encore, to close a truly classic jazz evening.

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