McCoy Tyner, Royal Northern College of Music

Royal Northern College of Music

Anyone who has ever lain in a darkened room and listened to John Coltrane's My Favourite Things will be able to testify to the transcendent pianistic powers of McCoy Tyner. The rolling, trance-like chords, the cathedral ambience generated by his use of the sustain pedal, the crashing waves of arpeggios, all spoke of a man who was determined not to be outdone by the pyrotechnics of his saxophonist band-leader.

Now on the cusp of his 70s, soldiering on decades after Coltrane's death, Tyner is still capable of delivering a powerful punch. During this performance, sound seemed to pour from the piano in thick, gloopy cascades; if you closed your eyes, it was quite easy to imagine you were listening to three pianists, each with four hands.

Tyner was backed by his regular rhythm section of bassist Avery Sharpe and drummer Aarron Scott. Given that the sound of Tyner's piano will be forever linked in many jazz fans' minds with the polyrhytmical splendour of the late Elvin Jones, Scott's thumping big-band approach inevitably proved a little underwhelming. Still, he and Sharpe proved a tight, serviceable unit.

As relentless in its own way as Dr John's pile-driving boogie, Tyner's approach actually became a little wearing. A solo rendition of Naima (a tune from Coltrane's Giant Steps album) proved a welcome interlude, with sad yawning spaces opening up inside passages of drifting lyricism. But moments like these were in short supply; for most of the evening McCoy went on flinging himself from one harmonic peak to another, erecting such monumental edifices of scale and chord that the cumulative effect was a kind of musical vertigo. After all these years, the truth still holds true: when you've heard McCoy Tyner play the piano, you've truly heard a piano played.

· At the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, on November 13 . Box office: 0131-668 2019.


James Griffiths

The GuardianTramp

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