Friday, April 15, 2011

McCoy, with a Marv Digression

A few weeks ago, my friend John invited me to the Blue Note jazz club to see the McCoy Tyner Trio. I had never been to Blue Note before, and in this instance, as in others, I was glad that John urged me to take advantage of the city, something that’s all too easy to be lazy about. Tyner has had a long career, though he’s probably most famous for being the pianist in the John Coltrane Quartet in the early 1960s.

While I waited for John outside the club, I started talking to a friendly guy who was selling his own CDs. I was holding a couple of books in my hand, and one time as I paced past him (I’m not very talented at standing still), he said, “Hello, writer.” I thought that was funny, so I gave him a chance to sell me on his music. He was slow to do it, happy to talk about other things — like growing up in upstate New York, or the music event he organized each month at the Bowery Poetry Club. He introduced himself as Marv, short for Marvalous. Eventually, he showed me two CDs he had for sale. I asked him if he preferred one over the other. “Oh, I can’t say,” he said. “These are my children.” He did point out, though, that the first was like his independent film, scrappily put together and very dear to him. The second was his bigger-budget movie, more effects, more “pow,” as he put it. Maybe he said more “bang.” They looked equally scrappy to me, and I chose one. After we talked for a few more minutes, he said, “Here, take both of them for that price.” I said no — that I knew where to find him, and if I liked the one I had, I would gladly come back to buy the other one. I keep meaning to listen to the record, but haven't yet. Sorry, Marv. I’ll have to do that, and blog about it. More material!

OK, this is blogging as it happens: I just found a post by another musician who also met Marv on the street, and ended up asking him a few questions over e-mail. In the interview, Marv says he puts in many 12-hour days pushing his music, and he reveals some of the simple but effective methods he uses — like those he used on me — to get people talking. (“I genuinely love people, and that helps I’m sure. Especially in NYC people are many times apprehensive and guarded. So I smile, and ask open-ended questions or make a remark based on an observation, it could be a shirt or a brand that they’re wearing or a sports team, etc.”) I also found this video for a song of his online.

The show inside didn’t disappoint. Tyner is 72 now, gaunt and frail. But his hands can still fly. And the rest of his band, particularly bassist Gerald Cannon and a fierce drummer named Francisco Mela, was strong, joined by a vocalist whose name I don’t recall for a few songs. The clip below is of Tyner in huskier days, in Hamburg in 1996, blazing through Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.”


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