I just got back not long ago from Marcus Garvey Park up on East 124th St in Harlem, where the Summerstage Charlie Parker Jazz Festival took place. It's an annual event organized by City Parks Foundation, in tribute to Charlie Parker.. and this year it's also held in conjunction with the birthdays of Charlie Parker and Lester Young.. two great saxophone players that revolutionized the voice of the saxophone and jazz.
This free concert had three acts - Revive Da Live, JD Allen Trio, Jason Moran and the Bandwagon, and finally the headline of the evening, the great McCoy Tyner!
I only managed to get there in time to watch the start of JD Allen Trio's set (Revive Da Live was the first band to play), and like the set I watched once in Fat Cat, JD's trio was a powerhouse trio in his own right, calling upon some of the greatest tenor saxophone influences, such as Sonny Rollins as well as John Coltrane. What was amazing was that JD didn't even stop to talk, but segued from one piece to the next, and he doesn't seem to run out of energy even after all that (virtually non-stop) playing! This is what one would describe as "letting the music speak for itself". Being a saxophone trio, one cannot help but expect a somewhat evocative spiritual trio sound, very much in the vein of Coltrane, and perhaps some of the later tenor sax greats such as David S. Ware, David Murray, etc. The approach focus seemed less on trying to give out as much jazz vocabulary, but more on spontaneity, melodic and rhythmic intensity, expression based on color and shapes, as well as group dialogue. Since there was no verbal interaction with the audience, no one would know what tunes JD played, leaving us to immerse one's self in the heat of the summer sun, and the evocative nature of the music, which seemed adequate anyhow.
The second band to play was pianist Jason Moran, and his Bandwagon, with Tarus Mateen on electric bass and Nasheet Waits on drums! This is one of the few times I actually get to see a piano trio with electric bass. It's unusual, I think, but in this case, it was more than an exception! The nature of Moran's playing and his music, seemed to allow non-acoustic temperament of the electric bass to enhance the sound of the trio. Of course, it's done with absolute taste by Tarus Mateen, who used it the way it should in this set up. It's my first time watching Nasheet Waits play, and boy was I in for a treat. How I would describe it? Amazingly tasteful! Rhythmic complexity and flexibility is a given, as that is Moran's style from the little I've heard of Moran's music. But all done with great taste and precision. This show he did something interesting, by inserting a full audio sample of recorded jazz standards of old, and had the band play along with it. In one song, he basically played back the track of Eddie Jefferson singing the vocalese version of Coleman Hawkin's solo of Body & Soul, and the band basically played over it, like they were the musicians on that record date, but in a contemporary fashion! This was my first time watching piano powerhouse Jason Moran live, and I hope it won't be the last!
The highlight of the evening was the solo piano performance of the great Mr. McCoy Tyner. Before Mr. Tyner even played a single note on the piano, everyone was already standing in ovation, cheering for the legend that he is. Mr. Tyner performed a bunch of originals such as Fly With The Wind, and also Blues on the Corner, and even played his former saxophonist bandleader's original, Mr. PC. From this performance, one could already see the effects of old age, in Mr. Tyner's playing.. he hardly played anything at breakneck tempos, and that is to be expected... but the intensity and the soulfulness that shone brighter than the evening sun nevertheless maintained in his playing. Oh what a blessing it was to be able to catch one performance by this jazz and piano legend!
Tomorrow's concert (Sunday 29/8) will be at Tompkins Square Park. Not entirely sure if I'll be able to catch that one. But if I do, I'll try to write about it.