The pianist McCoy Tyner, whose albums over the last 30 years have proven he is comfortable in nearly any setting, went the all-star route for his first show at Disney Concert Hall. The first set was indeed that – superior musicians displaying incomparable improvisational skills yet never communicating as a whole – while the second set brought on an element of cohesion and adventure that nicely encapsulated Tyner’s career since he was a member of John Coltrane’s breakthrough quartet in the 1960s.
For the second half – five songs over the course of an hour – versatility was fiercely on display alongside viruoisty. On his tune “Angelina,” which he recorded on his last Telarc disc, released in 2004, Tyner used his trademark rough ‘n’ tumble chording technique to bully his way through the melody with a bulked up assist from drummer Lewis Nash. On the second tune, which centered on a four-note vamp, he found a soulmate in bassist Dave Holland as the two took small journeys away from the base camp; on a simple blues, saxophonist Joe Lovano played it simple and clean, ensuring that the tune’s intent of loneliness was communicated as a whole with the sax providing a pointed wail.
Tyner, 68, as he has been doing for decades, left room for a single solo piano romp that provided a sweet aural break in the action. He followed it with a trio take on one of Coltrane’s best-known numbers, “Moment’s Notice,” and by omitting the sax, he nicely placed the tune on a piano-trio pedestal.
First 40-minute set was flawless without being compelling. First two or three tunes had audio problems – Lovano’s sound was overly echoey and Holland was inaudible except during his solos — but the overall perf was soulless. Holland, who never fails to impress, delivered the most dazzling and compelling solos of the night – one of which was dominated by rich strings of chiming harmonics – and Nash’s timekeeping abilities and cymbal playing were consistently outstanding.