McCoy Tyner's annual two-week residency at Yoshi's jazz club in Oakland is always an "event", with all performances selling out well in advance. For the first week of this year's stay, Tyner was matched up with an all-star lineup in a classic quintet arrangement. They did not disappoint. The Sunday matinee show was exciting, often brilliant, and brimming with joy. But let's get one thing straight. Tyner may have been the headliner, but the real star of the show was bassist Charnett Moffett. While the horns needed a full song to get into synch, Moffett hit the ground running with a marvelous blend of precise, melodic playing and a sense of unbridled fun that quickly infected the rest of the band. The set opened with a swinging Hank Mobley tune ("This I Dig Of You"), that soon established the tight interplay of the rhythm section. Brian Blade's drums provided constant, Elvin Jones-style propulsion as Moffett broke the ice by quoting Christmas carols and laying down a hard groove. George Coleman, who was solid on tenor sax throughout the set but never fully distinguished himself, turned in an exceptionally long and twisting solo that featured several surprising leaps into the alto range. After a brief introduction, the group broke loose with a blazingly fast rendition of "What Is This Thing Called Love". Terence Blanchard turned in a blistering and powerful trumpet solo, at some points abandoning his microphone with no loss of projection. Tyner followed up with an amazing turn of his own, but Moffett stole the show with a two-minute stretch in which he essentially dueted with himself, laying down a deep bass line and picking out a subtle bell-like melody at the same time.
Everyone except Blade left the stage during a fantastic solo piano improvisation by Tyner, which ranged from a bouncy stride to introspective beauty, laced with classical references, rising and falling in waves. It was as if all the great pianists of the 20th century had temporarily taken joint control of one man's hands.
The rhythm section returned for an energetic, Latinized trio number with a sweeping, orchestral feel that reminded me of Tyner's 1970's recordings for Milestone. Moffett again grabbed the limelight here by employing his bow as a percussive tool. The resulting sound effect akin to a prepared piano raised gasps of pleasure from the enthralled audience.
The set ended with the full quintet in a straight hard bop blues. Although everyone turned in a fine performance, my companions and I found ourselves wanting more of the trio. The horns just couldn't keep up with the nearly psychic interaction of Tyner, Blade and Moffett.
I may just be under the influence of Yoshi's incredible raspberry chocolate mousse, but this was one of the most satisfying concerts I've attended in quite some time. I eagerly anticipate next year's visit.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.