Charlie Mingus once titled a tune “If Charlie Parker was a Gunslinger, There’d be a Whole lot of Dead Copycats” (a.k.a. “Gunslinging Bird”). That’s the influence McCoy Tyner has today, for it often seems as if almost every young neo-bopper in front of a grand piano sounds either like Tyner, Bill Evans or both. He likes to change the context in which he performs — earlier this year, he toured with a Latin jazz band and put out a cooking CD, “McCoy Tyner and the Latin All-Stars” (Telarc) — but his basic two-fisted, densely chorded, life-affirming style generally doesn’t change.
With just his trio on hand this time, Tyner’s opening set was plagued with sonic gremlins that still crop up on occasion in the overresonant Bakery. During the ensemble passages of the opening number, “Changes,” the pickup of Tyner’s piano was blaring and blurred, Aaron Scott’s drums sounded overbearing and Avery Sharpe’s bass was almost inaudible. It seemed as if each musician was playing in his own world, unable to hear each other, eventually competing with a frenzy that generated unintentional chaos rather than excitement.
Under these conditions, the only way to be understood is to tone it down, leave space between the notes, play more subtly and responsively — which the trio did on “My Romance” and in spots elsewhere. Tyner’s solos vibrated with rapid right-hand patterns, contrary scales and, of course, those big tremolos and dense, affirmative chords that all the young cats adore. Sharpe handled his bass with an agility and powerful strumming technique that almost resembled flamenco, and Scott could generate some genuinely romping drive.
Yet a good deal of the time, this trio was projecting outward as if this were Carnegie Hall, firing away like Mingus’ gunslinger. Such concentrated energy can lead to ecstasy, but in this acoustical space, it felt like a mugging.