Saturday, April 5, 2014


McCoy Tyner
Jazz pianist McCoy Tyner’s concert at the Paradise Jazz Series Friday evening didn’t measure up to the concert he put on last year at the Detroit Jazz Festival where he damn near burned down the main stage. McCoy, the pianist who pushed saxophonist John Coltrane to great improvisational heights, is unfortunately an old man now, and in recent years has battled illnesses that have affected his playing.

That much was clear last night as Tyner struggled through a two-hour concert with his trio bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Francisco Mela. The saving grace was trumpeter Terence Blanchard who sat in on a handful of numbers.

McCoy received an ovation as his son helped him to the piano. He was forgetful, introducing the band twice before he dug into the first number. After each number the trio played, Cannon whispered in Tyner’s ear what was next on the set list.  Tyner rose after the first number, bowed to the audience, and was set to walk off the stage as if the concert was over. It was heartbreaking watching senility screw with one of the jazz world's greatest percussive pianist of all times.

A big disappointment was Tyner did not play any of the music he played with Coltrane. Instead, he played cuts from a few of the albums he made for Milestone Records. The concert wasn’t completely disappointing. 

Cannon, who was the crowd favorite, played some choice cut solos, and Mela showed that he’s a drummer with enough horsepower to motor a cruise ship. Blanchard blowing was gorgeous, which wasn’t surprising.

Blanchard has been a key to the success of the 2013-2014 Paradise Jazz Series, putting on two fine concerts one a night of the music of Gil Evans and Miles Davis and another with his band, which played cuts from his excellent 2013 release Magnetic. Since he started booking acts for the jazz series, attendance has grown. Blanchard has done such a bang up job his contract was extended.

As for Tyner, there were flashes of his former self on a few numbers, and the solo number he ended the concert with was played so beautifully it could've made the devil's heart melt. Clearly, he isn’t up for touring regularly enough to keep his chops strong. So, it's worth questioning if it's time for Tyner to quit. 
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