Friday, March 16, 2007

McCoy Tyner Trio - 15/03/2007@Flagey, Brussels

Before heading to Flagey, I stopped by photographer Benjamin Struelens's New York, Nude York exhibition at Théâtre Marni. I figured looking at shots of New York was a good way of getting ready for the concert. Apart from having been taken in La Havana, Cuba and being crooked (and not as good, obviously), my photo above more or less fits the exhibition's tone. A few good ones (a particularly painterly shot of buildings, a close-up of a metallic cable on a yellow background, another of a baby-foot (fussball) player, a great one of a walking man's shadow, but presented upside-down so the shadow becomes the walker) but a fair number of easy clichés, too (a dead leaf in a puddle, buildings reflected in a puddle, streaking car lights).

I don't aspire to artist status in my photography (or writing), but lately I've been wondering about how to make it better (maybe I should just learn how to take photographs!) - since most of my shots are "natural," it's easy to fall into a kind of empty pattern and show nothing more than what is already there. Struelens, at least in this exhibition (click on the "news / expo" link), is interested in a lot of the same things (cf. the fire escape, public phones and jutting balcony pictures on his website, though I don't find the latter particularly good) and, at a much higher level, he has a lot of the same problems and successes as I do (and was born in the same year), which is fairly reassuring and instructive.

McCoy Tyner - p
Gerald Cannon - b
Eric Gravatt - d

My love of consecutive shows is well-documented, but I'm not sure this one really deserved a repeat viewing purely on musical terms. The setlist and order were exactly the same and the arrangements offered little leeway for real exploration (or Tyner has little inclination left for it). The continual tension-release cycles as sound swelled over a single, pounded low note - like a balloon steadily filling with water and popping with a crash, only to be immediately replaced by another - were effective, but a little wearying in their systematic application. Philippe Elhem rightly likened it to the Dave Burrell concert, in this sense. I can only imagine what hearing Tyner's trio in a club back in his prime, say around the time of Sahara, was like. I'd probably have been liquefied.

Perhaps it was because I was much less tired and much better-seated (fourth row, left-of-centre), but the first set was much more effective than the preceding night's first set. The left hand counter-melodies of Tyner's solo on "In A Mellotone" came through clearly, for example. Cannon's rough-hewn sound continued to favour rhythm and a naturally accessible lyricism over intonation and articulation in fast passages. Gravatt still cultivated two starkly different modes of playing: relatively steady and subdued accompaniment, explosively staccato soloing closely linked to the phrasing of the melody of the tune.

The second set was cut one or two songs shorter. Bizarrely, it seemed to me that, as he hadn't had to struggle through the first set, the second set kind of coasted on, without the heroic efforts invested in it the previous night. "Moment's Notice"'s head seemed a little sloppy, and I'm pretty sure the solo piano feature was the same as in the first set (or a very similar-sounding standard). at the end of the first set I asked Toots Thielemans, sitting one seat away from me, what the solo standard had been. He tentatively replied "I Should Care." During the second set's solo standard, he confidently leaned over and said "This is 'I Should Care.'" To Tyner's credit the versions were remarkably different: the first fractured, with a restrained power, the second see-sawing between rollicking rhythm and near-stillness.