Imagine "Tea for Two" striding along at a fast clip on the ivories and suddenly careening off into a Cecil Taylor avalanche that crashes with an earthquaking roar of drums. Hardly has the last boulder settled when bassist Carrol Daschield's bumblebee bowing rises out of the dust. That's a rough (and inadequate) description of the sit-up-and-take-notice opening number last night at Blues Alley by the Kevin Toney Band, a quartet. It was one of those musical experiences that words can barely do justice to.
Pianist Toney, who formerly contributed to the garish chaos of the fusionist Blackbyrds, displayed skills aplenty at the Steinway in a compelling blend of McCoy Tyner and Bud Powell with hints of Fats Waller and Earl Hines.
Sadly, he soon reverted to form with an electronic mishmash of "Milestones," a musical-benches electric/acoustic keyboard act on John Coltrane's "Naima," and a Pied Piper routine on melodica to the pop blandness of vocalist Alton Greene. That opening number sticks with one as an augury of Toney's potential as a jazz pianist. But the rest of the set hovers like the Furies and one wishes they would go away. Adolf Wright was at the drums, Noble Jolley on electric guitar.