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McCoy Tyner Honored at the Annual SFJAZZ Gala

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Thursday May 28, 2009

San Francisco ChronicleLaura Compton – May 27, 2009

There’s always a celebratory mood in the air at SFJazz, which draws an eclectic cross-section of jazz lovers to its annual San Francisco gala. “Folks from every corner of the city, really every culture and creed, come to this gig to get down and celebrate music that has inspired for generations,” said chair and SFJazz trustee Robert Mailer Anderson.

The crowd included rockers Les Claypool and Lars Ulrich, authors Daniel Handler and Amy Tan, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott and philanthropist Vanessa Getty.

Even in a tough economy, the Real McCoy, named for one of McCoy Tyner’s Blue Note records, managed to sell out with 350 attendees and raised $300,000 to support the SFJazz Collective and High School All-Stars. Both groups performed works by Tyner, the pianist and composer who was this year’s honoree.

Mailer exhorted guests to take their seats, threatening to do his Chet Baker impression if they did not. Stanlee Gatti transformed the Four Seasons ballroom into an intimate clublike setting with red-draped walls, red tablecloths and small lamps at each table. Dinner was just as swanky: vegetarian strudel, and prime New York steak and braised short rib with potato and foie gras ragout, served with Oakville Ranch wines.

But this year’s fete had another dimension as well. When Tyner took the stage at 9:45 p.m., the vibe shifted to reverence. McCoy’s longtime friend and bandmate Bobby Hutcherson paid tribute, describing seeing Tyner play with John Coltrane at the old Jazz Workshop club in San Francisco, to a crowd of about 15.

They had turned the music into such a spiritual experience that the musicians “were all crying,” he remembered. “When you play, you’re praying, and the bandstand is a pulpit.” Hutcherson, a premier vibraphonist who was a three-year member of the Jazz Collective, then joined Tyner for three numbers that powerfully demonstrated the point.

A dessert “after-jam” party fueled by Blue Bottle coffee, mini desserts and a set by Joe Louis Walker capped the evening.



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