Broadcast of soul
Tribute Trio: Music of McCoy Tyner, Jan. 14 Vernon’s Jazz Club, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque The ninth in the Tribute Trio concert series, conceived by jazz promoter Victoria Rogers, took place at Vernon’s Jazz Club in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. For each performance, pianist John Rangel, drummer Cal Haines, and bassist Michael Glynn are dedicating themselves to learning material by a different jazz-piano icon, each of whom is the focus of a concert.
A secondary motivation for Rogers was to spread the concerts out among different venues. Vernon’s, which opened a year and a half ago, has a fairly noisy bar, but the cozy area closer to the stage is a worthy jazz space — complete with velvet-lined black walls hung with paintings of jazz legends such as Duke Ellington and John Coltrane. The configuration of the stage did not, however, allow the trio to organize itself as it usually does: in an “Oscar Peterson arrangement,” with the piano positioned so the keyboard is perpendicular to Glynn and Haines. “This setup puts the band in close proximity to one another, which enhances the dynamics of sound and interplay,” Rogers said.
This concert’s focus was McCoy Tyner, the cerebral but forceful pianist who gained renown as a member of Coltrane’s quartet in the early 1960s. At Vernon’s on this Friday night, the musicians jumped right in with the fasttempo “Reaching Fourth” from Tyner’s 1962 album of the same name. The tributee was well-done in Rangel’s imitation of his characteristic, pounded, left-hand block chords and fleet, beautiful, right-hand melodies and arpeggios. Rangel was real hepped-up. He had to be to handle this intense stuff.
The next piece, “Message From the Nile” from the 1970 album Extensions, was slower and broader, and the trio was equally solid — it sounded like a musical unit, without being timid or overly careful. Then the group stepped up into “Four by Five,” featuring one of Tyner’s powerfully rhythmic heads. It’s from the 1967 album The Real McCoy, and the trio played all five songs from the disc over the course of the next hour.
Another followed: the richly emotional “Contemplation.” Printed program notes offered during the show noted, “The simple harmonic structure, with only three chords, helps to give this piece a calm and open feeling.”
Rangel recalled playing with the hard-bop drummer Billy Higgins in Los Angeles. “Billy was one of the first people who taught me about playing with spirit, and McCoy — when I listen to him play, I don’t really care what notes he’s playing: it’s just I feel this, like, broadcast of soul, and the notes are just something that we can tune in to.”
“Man From Tanganyika,” covered from Tyner’s 1967 disc Tender Moments, presented a different kind of challenge, perhaps, because the original was a nonet session featuring six horn players. Regardless, Rangel did a fine job with the melody and Haines and Glynn on the peripatetic groove.
Glynn played arco on the ballad “Search for Peace” before the trio sidestepped into a Monkish character on “The High Priest,” flew beautifully on the Tyner gem “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit,” and finally took the proceedings into really transcendental territory with “Passion Dance.”
Still to come in the list of tributees in the Tribute Trio series are Bill Evans on Feb. 20 at the United Church of Santa Fe and Herbie Hancock on March 12 at the historic San Ysidro Church in Corrales. A final gig at Albuquerque’s Outpost Performance Space on April 21 features new compositions, inspired by the series composers, by all three players.
— Paul Weideman