All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Nite & Disk

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

474

McCoy Tyner: Shadows and Pulse at the Blue Note

Dr. Judith Schlesinger By

Sign in to view read count
But whatever the physiology or theory behind it, hearing Tyner this way gave me a new appreciation of the power of his music.
Driving down to see McCoy Tyner at the Blue Note, listening to his Grammy-nominated Illuminations along the way, I wondered what new thing I could possibly say about this jazz icon. Of course the CD is terrific, as already documented on AAJ, and I knew his performance would be masterful. I figured I could always discuss the difference in the band — it would be Billy Cobham and Stanley Clarke that night, rather than the CD's constellation of Gary Bartz, Terence Blanchard, Christian McBride, and Lewis Nash. So that was a possibility.



What happened instead was totally unpredictable, and helped me appreciate Tyner in a completely different way.



I got to the Blue Note, dodging the usual kamikaze cabs along the way, and my friend George was already there. He'd picked a seat that was just behind Tyner and to his left, so that George could see the keyboard (he's a pianist too). I could've sat next to him, but given that the club was so packed, getting to the opposite seat was tricky enough (excuse me, excuse me, excuse me). That left me directly behind the piano bench and almost on the stage. I would not be seeing Cobham or Clarke, and only the back of Tyner — and maybe his left hand, if he raised it high enough over the keyboard.



But I didn't object, and not just because the place was packed and the options were rapidly decreasing. I thought it might be interesting to hear a live performance without the usual distractions of watching the musicians' technique, seeing their faces, and enjoying their interplay with each other. Also, having my back to the room meant that I didn't have to notice the crowd, especially the irritants who talk through solos. This way, I could totally focus on the music.



Well, I was both right and wrong — right, in that the musical experience was more direct and intense, and wrong, because there was a visual that kept me fascinated. Moreover, another sensory dimension was operating — a physical touching that I couldn't have anticipated.



Here's how it worked. I was behind Tyner, and the lighting cast his shadow on the wall. I could watch his head and upper body and his hands, especially when he started high for his keyboard attack (which he often does). Tyner has a ponytail and a rather noble brow, and with his signature preference for fourths, the Indian analogy was inescapable. In any case, from my perspective, the source of the music was a shadow dancing on the wall.



The touching happened because my right knee was squished against the stage. Tyner keeps time with his left foot, so each time it hit the floor, I felt the impact against my leg. So between the shadow and the pulse, I had a whole new way to experience his music.



And what music it was! They began with the marvelous Tyner's "Trane-like" ("for my teacher, John Coltrane"), then went into a rocking version of "Come Rain or Come Shine," during which I scribbled, "tiny explosions all over the keys" in my notebook. Tyner's percussive genius has long been recognized. I'd seen it before, but never felt it quite this literally. On the third selection, Tyner's "Angelina" (which, like "Come Rainï" is on the CD), Clarke started things off with a dazzling imitation of a flamenco guitar, and Cobham played a strong, stalking solo. They took us through many landscapes, and it was clear that the crowd appreciated the fusion-ish funking. It's also a memorable treat in its jazzier CD incarnation.



Another highlight was Tyner's solo rendition of "I Should Care," which is not on the CD. It showcased his more reflective side, and it was beautiful - well, except for the moment when a note got stuck in the middle of the piano, and Tyner stopped playing to let it resonate. Then there was a rollicking blues and something called "Spin It"??, and the whole thing was over too soon.

I remained mesmerized by the shadow and the pulse (I tried to capture the feeling with a picture — I'm sure everyone thought I was nuts, photographing the wall). The combination fed my belief that the very best music has less to do with the players than with something primal and universal that they tap into.



I won't get all Jungian on you, but I've had at least two other experiences where the mystical power of music — its ability to transcend the individual —has been this obvious to me. One was seeing pianist Michel Camilo play at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, in upper Manhattan. He was accompanied only by a flamenco dancer, and the lighting tossed their shadows about 50 feet in the air, filling the vaulted ceiling. This effect depersonalized what they were doing and lifted it into something truly magical.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Eliane Elias: Made in Brazil - Swung at Birdland Nite & Disk
Eliane Elias: Made in Brazil - Swung at Birdland
by Dr. Judith Schlesinger
Published: April 30, 2015
Read Kate McGarry: Beauty and the Bus Nite & Disk
Kate McGarry: Beauty and the Bus
by Dr. Judith Schlesinger
Published: May 5, 2012
Read Eliane Elias: Something [Historic] for You at Dizzy's Nite & Disk
Eliane Elias: Something [Historic] for You at Dizzy's
by Dr. Judith Schlesinger
Published: January 31, 2008
Read McCoy Tyner: Shadows and Pulse  at the Blue Note Nite & Disk
McCoy Tyner: Shadows and Pulse at the Blue Note
by Dr. Judith Schlesinger
Published: December 16, 2004
Read Thunder in the Hall: Michel Camilo at Lincoln Center Nite & Disk
Thunder in the Hall: Michel Camilo at Lincoln Center
by Dr. Judith Schlesinger
Published: October 4, 2004
Read The Frank and Joe Show: The Hoot Factor at Sweet Rhythm Nite & Disk
The Frank and Joe Show: The Hoot Factor at Sweet Rhythm
by Dr. Judith Schlesinger
Published: May 1, 2004
Read "Take Five with Alex Lefaivre" Take Five With... Take Five with Alex Lefaivre
by Alex Lefaivre
Published: July 24, 2018
Read "Walter Trout: Thriving With The Blues" SoCal Jazz Walter Trout: Thriving With The Blues
by Jim Worsley
Published: February 24, 2018
Read "Chamoisic Festival VIII Edition" In Pictures Chamoisic Festival VIII Edition
by Antonio Baiano
Published: October 29, 2017
Read "Solo Piano – Fred Hersch and Ran Blake" Bailey's Bundles Solo Piano – Fred Hersch and Ran Blake
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 25, 2017