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  The Real McCoy at the Hollywood Jazz Festival  
  by Dustin Garlitz  

        January 2005:

       McCoy Tyner is one of the most significant pianists to emerge from the 1960’s.  I caught him recently at the Hollywood Jazz Festival in Florida.  This was the top performance that I witnessed that year, followed by Michel J. Stevens (from Conference Call) in Memphis and Junior Mance in Chicago.  Not only was the audience blessed to have McCoy in the house, it was an extra special event since he was joined by fellow Philadelphian Stanley Clarke on acoustic bass and one of the drummers from Wayne Shorter’s Weather Report (of the 1970’s). The highlight of the evening was McCoy’s interpretation of the old classic I’ll Take Romance.   The day before the concert, Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach’s newspaper (named the Sun-Sentinel) had a write up on Tyner by a local journalist who had interviewed him.  The Hollywood Jazz Festival was a tribute to Elvin Jones, so McCoy talked to the journalist about the relationship he had with Elvin, as well as with the rest of the Coltrane Quartet.  Tyner started playing with Coltrane at the tender age of 17, and since he was the youngest in the group, Elvin would always look out for him.  If he were at a bar having a cigarette, Elvin would come up to him, put out his cigarette, and say to him, “don’t smoke”.  He would then go tell the bartender to only give McCoy orange juice when he would order his signature vodka and orange juice drink.  Tyner is in high demand today, and the proprietor of the Jazz Showcase in Chicago told our audience (after the Junior Mance show I was describing previously) that McCoy was coming to town, yet we were going to have to pay extra money in order to see him.  What amazed me about the Hollywood show was the supernatural ability of his opening act.  This band was the Manuela Valera Quartet featuring Seamus Blake.  Valera is a pianist my age (who I went to school with in New York) who has remarkable technique. Once a fellow student of mine told me about Seamus, and I now feel fortunate enough to have caught him live.  I listened to a lot of good jazz in my day, yet Valera and Blake had the strongest foundation of any of the contemporary musicians I’ve ever heard before.  The second night of the festival was just as strong in terms of a line-up: Ira Sullivan (who gave me a big pep-talk before I went off to music school) opened up for the Bobby Hutcherson Quartet featuring Eric Reed.   The highlight of that evening was Ira covering Body and Soul and Adderley’s Bohemia After Dark.  If you want to check out a great Hutcherson album, go out and buy the Blue Note album Dialogue (with Sam Rivers and Andrew Hill) or check him out with Archie Shepp on The New Thing at Newport (he is in top form on Le Matin Des Noire.)  As far as McCoy’s work is concerned, check out the up-tempo opening track on his Inception 1960’s date for Impulse! (There is No Greater Love is also remarkable).  Yet McCoy’s best work as a leader (him in full form at least) in on The Real McCoy, a 1967 Blue Note date.