Pianist McCoy Tyner and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, who both turn 50 this year, joined forces at Blues Alley Tuesday night to create that rarest of jazz phenomena: a band of equals. Their old peer, drummer Louis Hayes, and the exceptional young bassist Avery Sharpe provided rhythms as supple and insistent as the leaders' solos. If Hubbard supplied the showmanship with his fast, flashy solos and mugging antics, Tyner provided the musical foundation by tying the melodies to thick, ever-shifting chordal harmonies.
Tyner's dense, percussive style might seem the opposite of Count Basie's light, spare approach to the piano. Tyner, though, shares Basie's sense of rhythm-linked harmony, and he opened and closed the first set with Basie tributes: He fleshed out the catchy melody of "Little Darlin'," which Neal Hefti wrote for the Basie band, and led the rollicking roadhouse attack on his own "Blues for Basie." Hubbard was at his best on the fluegelhorn as he smeared moody notes across Tyner's wall of sound on Luis Bonfa's "Manyaje Carnival." On Tyner's ambitious "Latino Suite," Sharpe showed off his ability to strum his upright bass so hard that he could phrase guitar chords on it.