It shouldn’t surprise anyone when a jazz pianist organizes a big band. If you picture the piano as a “miniature orchestra”–a common characterization that dates back to the instrument’s invention–you can easily appreciate the lure of translating a pianist’s impromptu arrangements to the larger medium. But at first blush, that wouldn’t seem to work far McCoy Tyner, with his highly percussive, densely textured, and often blunt approach. Tyner’s style falls outside traditionally “pianistic” models, which place flowing upper-register runs and internal sonorities against a wide variety of lower-register voicings –the very blueprint for most big-band writing as well. Shows haw wrong you can be. In their arrangements Tyner and his associates have transferred his blocks of sound almost unaltered to individual sections of the band, retaining the dark, real McCoy sonorities; but they have voiced the chords so as to prevent those blocks from becoming monolithic. The results accomplish just what you want from a big band: they mirror the leader’s own pulsar-energy style while providing a dynamic bulwark for Tyner’s bevy of tough-minded soloists. Tyner’s second album with the group, last year’s Turning Point, won this year’s big-band Grammy, and this weekend will prove how much he deserved it. Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, Sunday, 5 and 7 PM, and Monday, 7 and 10 PM, Crystal Ballroom, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4846.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Carol Friedman.