McCoy Tyner/Various, Bath festival

Bath festival

McCoy Tyner, the magisterial virtuoso who has been making a piano sound like an orchestra since his days with the John Coltrane Quartet in the 1960s, was at the Bath festival this week, the first stop of a short UK tour. Tyner's famously teeming style was originally built out of the flowing pianistics of Art Tatum and the bebopper Bud Powell, but creatively fragmented, chord-pummelled and reharmonised by the methods of the jazz jackhammer called Thelonious Monk. A Tyner day, therefore, was made all the richer for an afternoon encounter with the 1993 documentary Thelonious Monk - American Composer, followed by saxophonist Tony Kofi's quartet rattling exuberantly through as many Monk classics as it could squeeze into an hour.

The Monk film was dazzling for its depiction of how music possessed the legend's body and spirit. Kofi's group (notably, sweepingly, inventive pianist Jon Gee) confirmed that Monk's pieces will continue, inspiring independent improvisers for generations.

McCoy Tyner's trio is touring with everybody's dream guest saxophonist, Joe Lovano. Lovano's tonal delicacies were not best served by the Bath Forum's PA, but he eased between lateral Ornette Coleman-like melodic ingenuity and smoky ballad atmospherics with all his usual authority, and dominated the creativity of the group. Tyner, who seemed out of sorts, took an untypical back seat, curtailing his usually long-limbed runs, and occasionally hitting those familiar roaring chord-clusters as if in irritation more than exultation. The ostinato-packed themes retained their usual hypnotic drive, though, and a classic such as the trancelike Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit brought explosive contributions from both Lovano and former Weather Report drummer Eric Kamau Gravatt.

· At The Sage, Gateshead (0191-443 4661) tomorrow. Then touring.


John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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