Many years ago, walking down the hall in a dormitory at Boston University, I heard the most amazing music coming from a turntable. The artist was John Coltrane, and the tune was "My Favorite Things."
What helped make Coltrane's music so exemplary was the presence of McCoy Tyner, who had joined the tenor and soprano saxophonist in 1955 and would record the classic album, which would have such an explosive effect on jazz, just five years later.
Over the decades Tyner has toured extensively, recording both meditative ("Naima") and orchestral albums ("Song of the New World," for example). Prodigious in output and prolific in appearances, he has mellowed a bit over the years, but few have matched him and no other pianist really resembles him in style.
As the sole remaining member of the John Coltrane Quartet, he remains an icon. For tonight's performance at Yoshi's in San Francisco, the culmination of a three-night gig, he is joined by bassist Gerald Cannon on bass and cutting-edge young drummer Eric Harland, along with 1970s "free jazz" icon Garry Bartz — another legend who may have mellowed slightly but has lost neither cogency nor declaration of sound.
Bartz, a thick sheaf of grey hair protruding from underneath is brimmed top hat and over his jacket's collar and donning a formal white shirt and tie, soloed magnificently on soprano and tenor throughout the evening.
Bartz — a veteran of the bands of such departed luminaries as Art Blakey, Miles Davis and Charles Mingus won a Grammy Award in 2005 for playing on McCoy Tyner's album Illuminations.
"Fly with the Wind" the evening's gorgeous opener which features Gary Bartz on tenor. Tyner's playing is as memorable as always. Leading strongly with his left hand, he conjures up waves of sound, building a floating sonic wall of notes.
"Aisha," next up, presents Tyner at his best, accompanied by another Bartz solo.
"A Moment's Notice" is than followed by a Tyner solos with other members leaving the stage. The lyricism is punctuated by the sound of a raucous youngster being carried from the room.
After a memorable African Village, McCoy annnounces Duke Elllington's "In a Mellow Tone," after which the group receive a standing ovation and leave the stage.
The second set is composed of much the same tunes but in a different order. Now a septuagenarian, Tyner will not be around forever. See him while you can!