Caring to Listen

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Posts tagged John Coltrane

7 notes &

On the birthday of John Coltrane, born September 23, 1926.  

Naima, recorded July 27, 1965 in Antibes

The musicians:

John Coltrane - Tenor Saxophone
McCoy Tyner - Piano
Jimmy Garrison - Bass
Elvin Jones - Drums

I’ve previously re-blogged a version I like even better: if you haven’t seen it, check it out here.  

Filed under jazz John Coltrane Naima music saxophone

1 note &

Africa/Brass Revisited 2012: McCoy Tyner and Charles Tolliver Big Band

McCoy Tyner at the Blue Note: June 24, 2012

Photo:  David Peterkin

Revivals nowadays hardly seem infrequent, but this one caught my attention: Trumpeter/composer/arranger Charles Tolliver, assembling a big band to revisit John Coltrane’s classic 1961 “Africa/Brass” sessions at New York’s Blue Note Jazz Club. That alone would have been enough, but there was more: McCoy Tyner, who supplied arrangements and voicings for those sessions, would sit in the piano chair.  So in late June, when music critic and former WKCR colleague and friend Richard Scheinin inquired as to my interest, I replied immediately.

The hot seat for the project became obvious: somebody had to fill the role that John Coltrane played on the “Africa/Brass” sessions. Marcus Strickland answered that call. Did he sound like Coltrane?  Not really; it would have been unfair to expect any mortal to do that.  Yet he acquitted himself honorably, and played well, often very well, throughout, his solos gathering intensity and fervor as the night progressed.

The focus on the tenor saxophone chair notwithstanding, the true center of attention that night focused on McCoy Tyner.  For decades, Tyner has burnished the instantly identifiable harmonic signature and massive touch that he contributed to the John Coltrane Quartet.  Yet, for this listener, Tyner’s playing has rarely sounded as naturally cogent and moving as in this setting. 

At age 73, Tyner’s bouts with medical issues may have tempered his technical brilliance.  Yet he made it amply clear that night that he still is the sound: that so much of the timbre, attack and harmonic density we attribute to the Coltrane Quartet emanated from Tyner. The re-creation of “Africa/Brass” reminded us that, even if that sound resulted from a group collaboration, we have looked to Tyner in the last thirty or forty years to keep that sound alive. 

Tolliver’s ensemble supplied other moving reminders of the greatness of the “Africa/Brass” project.  The ensemble really took off in their rendition of Blues Minor, and evoked the greatness of the piece most powerfully in its performance of “Africa.”  Anchored by the sound of the two basses, and in particular by the bedrock of Gerald Cannon’s playing, the Tolliver ensemble brought to life the piece’s haunting sonorities: especially when the reed players took off their mouthpieces and played birdsong. 

The collaboration of Tyner and Tolliver’s band left no doubt that we were re-hearing a classic: hardly a repertory staple, but a classic that, after a half-century, still lived, at least for another glorious run — not yet ready to be a museum piece, thanks to the still vital McCoy Tyner; and a reminder that jazz, at its greatest, is, and should be, a living art form.  

Filed under Africa/Brass Charles Tolliver John Coltrane McCoy Tyner jazz Blue Note Jazz Club