02/14/13 By Scott Krane
Winter Files: Two Guitars and a Piano
Concert reviews: McCoy Tyner, Jim Hall, John Scofield
The McCoy Tyner Quartet at the Blue Note February 12-13, 2013
The Blue Note is filled to capacity on a Tuesday night in February. There is standing room only at the bar. McCoy Tyner comes to the stage late, after his three bandmates. The first set opener for Tuesday night is “Flying with the Wind,” a tune that shares the name of Tyner’s 1976 studio effort with Ron Carter on bass. This time there are no strings, however.
At the Blue Note, Tyner is playing with Gary Bartz on saxophone, Gerald Cannon on bass and Francisco Mela on drums. The band plays a Latin number, the driving rhythm of which, and the Phrygian soloing evoke Tyner’s playing on Coltrane’s Olé. Tyner, now 74, is a painter of decidedly dark hues: he loves hanging out in those low registers, even when comping for a soprano saxophone such as that of Gary Bartz.
The Jim Hall Quartet at Birdland October 2-6, 2012
Jim Hall, now 82, performed at Birdland in Manhattan last fall with Greg Osby on alto sax, Steve Laspina on bass and the formidably talented Joey Baron on drums. Hall’s playing has become a fossilized artifact of what was, for a time, the hottest jazz guitar this side of the Milky Way. The chops are still there (Hall is known for his beautiful chord voicing), but you hear less tonal variety these days. So the night dragged on in the dimly lit club: the evening gives a sense of drift. Hall performed a lesson in blues comping that could only be described as chunky. Heavy in hammering, perhaps frustrated. As always, the electric guitar was drenched in bright analog chorus.
Hall’s sense of humor is dry. Throughout the evening, he attempted to entertain the audience between songs by humorously chiding his bandmates: “We do not have a dress code in this group,” he said, “but we do have a hair code and Steven is violating it.”
Portions of the 2012 sets at Birdland were released in January under the title Live at Birdland, in conjunction with another live recording of trio performances at Bourbon Street in Toronto, Canada.
The John Scofield Trio at the Blue Note October 2-7, 2012
Most would say that John Scofield’s trio fits snuggly between self-conscious attempts at straight-ahead and Scofield’s signature rock-jazz shredding. But at times he’s either too straight-ahead or makes too much of an effort to be “in” with the Phish-concert-going jam band crowd.
Sco’s trio at the Blue Note last October included the ubiquitous Bill Stewart on drums and the legendary Steve Swallow on electric bass guitar. Sco shows off his new ballad “Season’s Creek,” on which he makes huge, dominant statements. Throughout the evening he will also play the jazz-funk classic “Chicken Dog.” Another crowd pleaser is a rendition of Bird’s “Confirmation.” The band will also perform Swallow’s original composition “Eiderdown.”