Peterson was not noted primarily for his solo playing, and thus titling the second in the five-part Aspects of Oscar series at Koerner Hall ‘Oscar Solo’ was somewhat misleading.
There’s no doubt veteran pianist McCoy Tyner was familiar with OP or that Cuban newcomer Alfredo Rodriguez (making his Canadian debut) knew his playing – as both affirmed during an intermission chat at the Dec. 11 concert – but the idea of paying tribute to our jazz legend’s solo legacy was not sustainable as a concept.
No matter. The jazz was fine, though frequent Hogtown visitor Tyner on his 72nd birthday now performs in a relatively restrained style compared to his halcyon days as a member of John Coltrane’s provocative quartet of the 1960s with bass Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones.
That was half a century ago, however, with Tyner a key performer on such seminal albums as My Favorite Things, Impressions, Live at the Village Vanguard and A Love Supreme. It’s hard to think of anything Tyner’s recorded since among his 70-plus albums that matches them, though the recent Quartet – with Joe Lovano, Jeff Watts and Christian McBride is a a good one.
His blues-based playing at the Koerner show featured some recognizable melodies and improv that featured a hammering left hand, monster chords and a complete sense of harmonic freedom as well as a tender treatment of the showbiz tune “I Should Care”, a reflective jog through Ellington’s “In A Mellow Tone” and after suitable tinkering a molto furioso spin on his composition “African Village”.
Tyner ranged over the keys with an almost romantic sweep, both hands of equal value and delivering an insistent swing even at slow tempo – Oscar would have certainly have approved of that.
In fact, Tyner sounded like a one-man orchestra, his subtleties matching his explosiveness. Definitely value for money.
Opening the show was Rodriguez, a real find, deserving the Standing O from a full house paying rapt attention all night. Having a mentor such as Quincy Jones doesn’t hurt his cause, but he obviously doesn’t need celebrity endorsement.
Head rolling, sometimes hunched over the ivories, at others rearing from his seat, Rodriguez offered extreme squalls of notes and by contrast exquisite delicacy, at one time foraging inside the piano, at another employing percussion in clave rhythm.
He can muse like Abdullah Ibrahim or create complexities like Brad Mehldau, but it was his fierce, swirling and two-fisted energy that captivated the audience – even when he was disguising the iconic standard “Body And Soul”
Rodriguez already has mastered the post-bop vocabulary, has abundant technique and on frequent occasions showed off his classical music training done in Havana.
It’s a good thing he’s not paid by the note! He’s a splendid entertainer with a brilliant future ahead.