Tyner time on Tyneside

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Three months old the Sage hosted the first Gateshead Jazz Festival with a high profile programme last weekend. In Hall 1 reedsman John Surman put the hall's acoustics through their paces. The initial birdsong of 'Late Nights, Early Mornings', sampled electronically, quickly made way for Surman's saxophone flights of fancy that saw him, as it increasingly became apparent later on 'Down Yonder', improvise in the truest sense. Pianist McCoy Tyner's appearance at the festival was a coup for programmers Ros Rigby and John Cumming of Serious. The first number with bassist Charnett Moffett to the fore was 'Serra Do Mar' from the Land of Giants album but soon Gravatt became influential and later on showed his superb timing as he found his cymbal's sweet spot to spur on the others. The somewhat ghostly lighting in Hall 2 for the afternoon acoustic sessions on the Saturday could have spooked. But Stan Tracey and Evan Parker exorcised any local phantom, with Tracey dominating with his customary jabbing and cross hand switching drawing frequently on his bespoke codified patterns that were never cold.
Pianist Matthew Bourne did not perform as advertised with bassist Barre Phillips whose place was taken by saxophonist Christophe de Bezenac. Bourne's set was, as expected, quite zany. At various points during the set especially when there was a screaming in tune contest and a free form 'towel' whip trick the show was pure vaudeville. But there was a sharp logic to the overall conception.
Later, EST moved effortlessly into that trace-like state only the Swedish trio can induce. Dan Berglund played superbly even if his borrowed bass might have had less 'give' than his own. His solo on 'When God Created The Coffee Break' from Strange Place For Snow demonstrated his nimble virtuosity. Jazz Jamaica in Hall 2 with their Motown show produced strong soloing by Denys Baptiste and Soweto Kinch. Detroit via Kingston by the Tyne.
Report: Stephen Graham