McCoy Tyner Trio/Michael Brecker Glasgow Festival

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The Independent Culture
If the tenor saxophone performances of McCoy Tyner's employer, John Coltrane, were characterised by - as a famous description put it - sheets of sound, Michael Brecker is the man who took the sound on into the era of matching duvet and pillow-cases. His work with his brother Randy in the Brecker Brothers band, as a soloist, or as a guest sessioneer on everything from Steely Dan to Paul Simon, has been notable for the cultivation of a technically impeccable style where the passionate long notes and ecstatic wailing of Coltrane have been strained through a blender to produce an all-purpose version of spiritual abandon, the emotion of his mentor strait-jacketed into a user-friendly simulation of cathartic excess.

Brecker seems to possess an internal switch that moves him up a gear into soulful mode, the register of the tenor heightened into the feel- good voice of his contemporary on the alto sax, David Sanborn. In short, he sounds reassuringly expensive. His recent work on Tyner's album Infinity, and his own, excellent Tales from the Hudson (both on Impulse) have, however, revealed a more meditative side to his playing. As the featured guest with the trio of Tyner (Coltrane's most important pianist, and a fellow Philadelphian), Brecker provided a stark contrast to the leader. While Tyner's fat-cat face and pencil moustache summoned up the jazz past with echoes of Basie and Ellington, Brecker's tall frame, bald pate and steel- rimmed glasses make him look like nothing so much as a New England puritan, or a dentist perhaps.

Even in moments of excess, Brecker is apt to do no more than move one foot from left to right as if he is stubbing out a cigarette. His playing is fast and fluent, with each note made to ring true. But in this performance, which gradually built from wobbly foundations into an edifice of remarkable beauty and power, he was astonishingly good. Tyner's high-rolling seas of piano, whose waves took a while to swell into real breakers, were matched by a squall of saxophonics, Brecker's reticence abandoned in split notes and bravura. One number played as a duo was particularly revealing; Tyner's hymn-like chords leading into a Brecker solo of breathtaking skill, which alternated lower and upper registers in a duet that, as if between Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins, demonstrated the full potential of the instrument.

He may not be a new Coltrane, but Brecker has found his own voice and it is stunningly good. Tyner, meanwhile, who once seemed such an iconoclast, has taken up his place in the great tradition somewhere between Errol Garner and Ahmad Jamal, content with little rhythmic games and only occasionally summoning up the old pan-African epiphanies. There were no incantations, chants or mystical trappings, but as straight-ahead jazz gigs go, this was hard to beat.

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