When it comes to showcasing his influential aesthetic–in which pointillistic rhythms encounter a grand, sweeping romanticism–McCoy Tyner clearly prefers that classic three-piece ensemble, the piano trio. But the outfit has begun to wear, and besides, the pianist’s closet houses plenty of others. He leads a vibrant and vigorous big band in New York, and he shares the stage with a string orchestra for most of his latest album, What the World Needs Now (which finds him playing the compositions of Burt Bacharach, who was penning such iconic pop tunes as the title track right around the time Tyner was pummeling his way through John Coltrane’s long, dark, careening improvisations on “Afro-Blue”). For this event Tyner will slip into a format he’s mostly ignored since the late 60s: the imaginative small-group jazz, poised confidently between hard bop and the avant-garde, that he created on a handful of sterling records for the Blue Note label. He’ll expand his regular trio to encompass Texas tenor tornado Billy Harper and indomitable trumpeter Claudio Roditi, a tandem that warrants comparisons with the pairing of Wayne Shorter and Woody Shaw on Tyner’s 1968 date Expansions. Bobby Hutcherson, another of the great musical forces to escape the 60s, provides the icing on the cake. The vibraphonist, who’ll stay in town to lead a quartet at the Jazz Showcase next week, has a bit of history with Tyner: he fronted the quartet on the old Blue Note album Time for Tyner, and his most recent recording is a duet date with the pianist. It forcefully demonstrates how these musical peers have grown closer in style over the decades, as Tyner has become more concerned with pure melody and Hutcherson has further defined the percussive possibilities of the vibes. The often sensational vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater opens the show, which is part of this weekend’s Jazz at Ravinia festival. Sunday, 7 PM, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Gene Martin.