Philly home boys

Kenny Mathieson considers the musical and geographical bonds which unite jazz greats McCoy Tyner and his special guest Michael Brecker.

The city of Philadelphia has produced more than its share of majorjazz musicians. Two of its most celebrated sons. pianist McCoy Tyner and saxophonist Michael Brecker. took a long time to finally team up fora much-anticipated Philly summit. but when it finally happened. the results were predictably powerful.

The pair first played together at a club named Yoshi‘s in Oakland early in l995. and the chemistry between them was such that an album project became an early priority. The results of their studio get-together. Tyner‘s Infinity. became the first album to appear on the newly re-activated impulse! label last year; Brecker has now returned the compliment by featuring Tyner on three cuts in his just-released Tales From The Hudson. also on impulse!

That historic label is itselfa poignant reminder of another major connection linking the two players. John Coltrane. Tyner was only 22 when he began the association with Trane‘s epochal early- 60s quartet which established his reputation as one of the handful of crucial players in the development of

. i \\ l‘ \\ McCoy Tyner: keeping lite interesting contemporary jazz. while Brecker readily acknowledges the depth of the saxophonist‘s influence on his own playing.

‘It goes beyond the fact that I am influenced by Coltrane and McCoy. i think that the quartet is the reason that I became a musician. and an important aspect ofthat was the fact that the group went beyond jtrst the strength of Coltrane‘s playing it was a powerful musical and spiritual force as a group. and that marriage sorrtehow transcended the individual musicians.‘

Inevitably. the shade of Coltrane is never too far away from their own playing. and nowhere more so than in their decision to take on his epic Impressions on the album. That is merely one facet of their collaboration. however. since b0th musicians have evolved their own very distinctive musical voices over lengthy and successful careers.

Tyner. who wrote the bulk of the

material on Infinity. has been more centrally locked into the jazz tradition than Brecker. Much ofthe saxophonist‘s work has been in the fusion field. notably with his brother. trumpeter Randy who also features in the festival. as part of the Empire State Sextet -— in the Brecker Brothers. and with Steps Ahead. and as a horn for hire in lucrative pop and rock sessions.

He can plug directly into that tradition when he chooses to do so. however, and the combination oftwo such big. expressive talents is an exciting. potentially explosive mix. He responds whole-heartedly to Tyner‘s promptings. revelling in the opportunity to stretch out and take full advantage ofthe harmonic freedom of the quartet setting.

On both the album and in their concert at the festival. they will be accompanied by Tyner‘s well- established rhythm section of Avery Sharpe on bass and Aaron Scott on drums. who have not only made up his trio for several years. but also provided the engine room for his big band. That continuity is something which the pianist genuinely values. alongside his desire never to stand still in musical terms.

‘Yes. I believe in that very strongly. l was with John ‘s group for six years. and you become like a family during that time. You can draw on that. it gives you a chance to grow and deveIOp. When i look back. I see a lot of different points of departure in my music. and a lot ofchanges in me. It‘s almost like i keep being re-bom. and i kind of like that idea of being an infant and learning and then being an infant again and learning something new. it keeps life interesting.‘

Mr'lfrrmr 's Old I-‘ruilmarkel. Sat 29. 7.30pm.

Imam— Ayers to you

Now in his mid-titties, lloy Ayers is an unlikely hero tor the acid-(an and hip hop generation, but the great los Angeles vibes-playing iaHJlunkster has been sampled more times than malt whisky, and the sounds he created drive innumerable dance floor hits by the likes of Arrested Development, X-clan, A Tribe Called Quest, and Mary .I Dllge. ile’s collaborated with rapper Gangstarr’s Burn, and even mainstream popster Vanessa Williams, but continues to lead his continuously evolving Ubiquity on a iitetlme quest tor the musical holy grail, the ultimate groove.

This year’s line-up includes heavy bass and drums by Donald licks and Dennis Davis, with Mark Adams on keyboards and liichard Shade on vocals (although Ayers is a line singer himselt) and is overlaid with the leader’s transparent, delicate and sophisticated vlbraphone technique.

Alter a boyhood meeting with lionel flunpton, Ayers emerged onto the world scene in llerbie Mann’s late-60s baud, going on to win the vibes category awards trom Down Beat and other major lan loumals. But it was with llblquity that Ayers found his own

sound. Formed way back in 1970, the music’s optimism and serenity attracted a huge tollowing. ‘Everybody loves The Sunshine’ is a song that in the band’s heyday became ubiquitous on us radio stations, and the current band reaches into the back catalogue ot albums (twenty tor Polydor alone) tor that and many other tavourites, while still introducing a continuous stream oi new material. -

Ayers refuses to age. he says ‘People can teel alienated. like older cats teel they can’t relate to hip hop. Their minds, to a certain extent, aren’t

iloy Ayers: old cat, young cat and hep cat united under one groove

open enough to understand it. And thatgoeslorsorne otthecatsinthe hip hop set too. They might not be open enough to relate to the older cats doln’ something ditterent. Dot I think the music can connect it. I could see the response oi the public when l was playing with Guru. l could see how the older and younger people were all connected and grooving to the same thing. It’s a love and respect there. Music can make that connection.’ (llorman Dhalrners)

lioy Ayers plays the Dirt Frultmarlret

Gallery on Wed 3.

High fiyer


iilchard Fairhurst taking all

The intercity Cafe Bar series allows the festival to focus on some of the emerging talent on the British jazz scene. Musicians falling into that category this year certainly include Scotland‘s own Steve Hamilton. and the excellent Theo Travis. a powerful and inventive saxophonist from Birmingham.

Pianist Richard Fairhurst is also from the Midlands. and his band The Hungry Ants are firmly on that list. although they do have the advantage of a couple of more established names in their ranks. in the shape of saxophonist lain Ballarny and bassist Steve Watts. The band. and the musical direction, belong very much to Fairhurst. however. although his original career aspiration was to be an even more literal high- flyer.

‘l wanted to be a pilot. and l was part way through taking my licence when I decided to concentrate on music instead. i first got interested in jazz at school in Leicester. when I heard something by Oscar Peterson. and really got into him. i had a friend there who knew quite a bit about jazz piano. and he got me into Bill Evans and so on. and I built it up from there. i hadn‘t played before then either. but i started at that point, when l was fifteen, and did a year of classical training before switching over to jazz.‘

Fairhurst met up with his ridiculously young and extremely talented drummer Tim Giles. at a Guildhall summer course in London in I992. The Bailamy connection came about when the pianist passed a tape of his music to lain’s dad, who lives in Leicester, and the saxman liked what he heard. The first fruits of the collaboration arrived with an auspicious debut album of imaginative. occasionally quirky contemporary jazz on Babel last year.

Since then. Fairhurst has been studying and soaking up the jazz scene in New York. which he found ‘maybe a bit more traditional and a bit less new and exciting than in Europe. but it‘s basically one long jazz festival.‘ Future plans include more work with the Hungry Ants, and a septet project which will ‘try to incorporate dance rhythms from the techno or rave scene alongside jazz‘. (Kenny Mathieson) Intercity Cafe Bar: Wed 3. [0pm.

The _List 28 Jun-ll Jul l996 21