McCoy Tyner Tribute At S.F. Jazz

Jazz Buddies,

Last night (Thursday), with rainy flood conditions in the “City by the Bay” taking a brief hiatus, I had the pleasure of attending an outstanding musical tribute to the late, great McCoy Tyner at the S.F. Jazz Center.

McCoy Tyner was the renowned pianist in the legendary 1960s John Coltrane Quartet, as well as a Jazz piano icon known for his attacking, percussive left-hand style of playing.  After his tenure with Coltrane, Tyner led his own small groups until his passing in March 2020.

This stellar event was part of S.F. Jazz Center’s 10th Anniversary Celebration Week and featured an all-star cast of musicians, all of whom recorded and performed with Tyner over the years: Gary Bartz (as), Dr. Eddie Henderson (tp), Joe Lovano (ts), Kenny Barron (p), Gerald Cannon (b), and Jeff “Tain” Watts (d).  

Since 1983, S.F. Jazz, a Bay Area not-for-profit organization, has produced the San Francisco Jazz Festival, as well as year-around concert performances by Jazz headliners and notable artists.  Prior to 2013, these concerts were held at various venues within the city, including: Grace Cathedral, Masonic Auditorium, Herbst Theatre, Davies Symphony Hall, Florence Gould Theatre at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, Palace of Fine Arts, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Museum of Modern Art, and Bimbo’s 365 Club.

In fact, Solo: Live from San Francisco is a live album by McCoy Tyner released in 2009 on his own label, McCoy Tyner Music.  The album was recorded at the Herbst Theatre as part of the San Francisco Jazz Festival’s Spring Series in May 2007 and features a solo performance by Tyner.

The spacious 35,000 square foot S.F. Jazz Center facility opened in 2013 and is located in the heart of San Francisco’s fine arts district.  In fact, McCoy Tyner participated in opening ceremonies!

After the sextet entered the stage, Joe Lovano asked Gary Bartz to offer a few comments since he served two stints with McCoy Tyner in his working band.  Bartz stated that the first band he actually played with was led by the great Max Roach. (Wow!)  When he left that group, he joined Tyner’s group.  And following this first stint, he then joined Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. (Wow!!)  A few years later, he then rejoined Tyner’s band.  And the rest is history… 🎷 Needless to say, a VERY impressive musical ‘CV’!!!

Also, outstanding bassist, Gerald Cannon, spent 14 years in Tyner’s group.  I last saw McCoy Tyner’s Quartet with Bartz, Cannon, and Lewis Nash at Blues Alley in November 2016!!

The two-hour tribute program featured familiar compositions, all Jazz classics, that McCoy Tyner recorded on his own albums:

  • Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit – Enlightenment (1973)
  • Hope – Asante (1974)
  • Contemplation – The Real McCoy (1967)
  • Fly With The Wind – Fly With The Wind (1976)
  • Blues On The Corner – The Real McCoy (1967) (Encore)

All of the musicians were at the top of their games, each taking turns displaying solid technique, improvisational skills, and melodic wizardry during their extended solos, with the sell-out crowd showing its gratitude and appreciation through thunderous applause.

Yes, Mr. Tyner would have been proud… 🎹🙏

After the performance, I had the opportunity to meet two new Bay Area Jazz buddies, John & Lily, at the B-Side pub next door… 🎵🎵 Take care!