Pianist McCoy Tyner, whose contributions to the past quarter-century of jazz have been immeasurable, filled Blues Alley Tuesday night with the throbbing, fortissimo sounds associated with some of the more garish electronic idioms. Jazz, an intensely personal form of artistic expression, does not benefit from instrumentation that does little to enhance its human qualities.
Not that the opening set was without rewards. Tyner's percussive attack, his two hands in virtual combat as they flailed the keyboard, was gripping and disquieting. In his solo feature, "Just in Time," there were abstractions of Tatum runs and finger-busting stride.
Violinist John Blake, combining the raw tone and choppy stroke of the late Stuff Smith with soaring lines that made use of sustained notes and lyric delicacy, provided the set's most exciting moments. The unison introduction by Blake and alto saxophonist Gary Bartz on "Sen or Carlos," a Tyner original, over the heavy Latin pulse of Wilby Fletcher was a broodingly effective beginning to a piece that later erupted in surging joy.
Solos by solid-body guitarist Jeff Lee and Fender bassist Tom Barney were typically urbanized-electric in their high energy and lack of subtlety. Vocalist Shavon Brown, with the group only three days, was not integrated into the set but tacked on at the end. Her vocal equipment is sound and she shows promise, but it was an incongruous coda to the preceding hour of untamed free-for-all. They stay through Sunday.