Tuesday, November 15, 2011

McCoy Tyner Trio - London Jazz Festival 2011

McCoy Tyner Trio featuring Jose James & Chris Potter + Blues and the Abstract Truth. Scene Iceland - London Jazz Festival, Barbican, Saturday 12th November 2011.

My London Jazz Festival kicked off with a trip to Iceland via the Barbican foyer, starting with the graceful piano sounds of Sunna Gunnlaugs, followed up by the country funk quirks of guitar player Ómar Guðjónsson, the best of which was a dirty wah-wah Hendrixy track. Iceland’s New Liberation Orchestra then delivered a selection of fab ‘In a Silent Way’ style grooves topped of with some imaginative sample textures from Pétur Grétarsson. This excellent round trip finished up with the super funky grooves of the Samúel Jón Samúelsson Big Band. Clearly Iceland is punching well above its weight in terms jazziness per capita.

The evening took us into the Barbican Hall for the McCoy Tyner Trio supported by a tribute playthrough of Oliver Nelson’s ‘ Blues and the Abstract Truth’ album. The openers set a high bar, with some sharp playing all round, trumpet player Byron Wallen and pianist James Pearson especially catching my ear with some great phrasing. Other duties were more than ably performed by Nathaniel Facey, Alex Garnett and Jean Toussaint on saxes, Sam Burgess on bass, and Shane Forbes on drums.

I have to say, I was really was taken aback with reverence when McCoy Tyner appeared from behind the curtain, as was the entire Barbican Hall. This was after all, the man who played with John Coltrane on ‘A Love Supreme’. Such legendary status can lead to over-expectations, but I can report that Tyner was totally phenomenal. That he can still generate such a level of intensity left me somewhat in awe. Graceful, almost classical flourishes would make way for characteristic high intensity surges that commanded the attention, being equally matched by the enticing knotted lines from saxophonist Chris Potter. Rhythm sectioners, Gerald Cannon on bass and someone I didn't catch the name of on drums, standing in for the great Eric Gravatt, more than kept up and held the pace. For me, the selection of tracks with singer Jose James taken from Coltrane’s collaboration with Johnny Hartman were a distraction, so it was great to hear the modal comping we know and love closing the set on ‘African Village’. This gig will stay in the memory for a good while I’m sure.

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