Pianist Henry Butler exploded into the Silver Screen room with a stormy intensity rivaled on his instrument only by McCoy Tyner. Butler seemed determined to wrench every vestige of sound he could from the room's unforgivably out-of-tune piano.
His opening minor blues Friday started with a bang, propelling Butler into a solo that came as close as any pianist has to achieving the high-flying rhythmic and harmonic orbit of a John Coltrane improvisation.
"My Coloring Book," a dramatic line filled with start-and-stop accents, was initially less appealing, in part because of Butler's tendency to lean too hard on the piece's weighty chordal clusters. But as soon as he soared into the solo sections, Butler began to float freely in a remarkable plethora of brilliant octave runs and rhythmically shifting melodies.
He reached his zenith on a richly textured "Swinging at the Palace" with a solo that was a textbook of contemporary piano styles ranging from Tyner to pure Butler.