Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Listening to McCoy Tyner and Grover Washington Jr. on the same program Monday night at Wolf Trap was a little like experiencing a rain storm and heat wave in the same evening.
Strikingly different in their musical styles and personalites, the two musicians are exponents of opposing artistic points of view. Tyner's emphasis is on the abstract, experimental side of jazz.Washington's focus is on listenable, even danceable, melodies and rhythms.
Personally, they are different. Tyner is taciturn to the point of avoiding talking on stage except for introducing the musicians at the close of his set. Washington, on the other hand, is a genial host, announcing selections, introducing musicians and referring to his recent albums.
Wonder is that they appeared on the same program. Nevertheless, they attracted their own separate audiences, about 2,200 persons, which meshed well.
Tyner's sextet opened the program with a brilliant, volcanic set of pieces, none of which he announced. Tyner's solo in the first composition was characterized by cascading melodies and jagged rhythms, which he built to such a throbbing crescendo that his side men sensed a note of completion when he finished.
The group's use of abstraction was pronounced in its performance of a standard ballad that was inherently lyrical. However the players turned it into a tumultuous mass of melody and harmony.Particularly interesting was alto saxophonist Hoe Ford's solo, which began in a conventionally melodic fashion but quickly changed into a series of melodic fragmentation and ornamentation.
The Tyner group's approach is highly rhythmic. Drummer Eric Gravatt delivered jaunty ensemble work in several explosive solos. Brazilian percussionist Guilherme Franco, who has a visually striking array of bells, triangles, gourds and miscellaneous other instruments, has an uncanny nack for striking the correct rhythmic stroke no matter who is soloing.
The music of Washington, who plays alto, soprano and tenor saxophones, does not lend itself to rigorous criticism. His music is pleasant but not challenging. The rhythmic impulse is always danceable. A hummable melody is almost always present. And he plays tunes his fans always recognize.