This relatively overlooked McCoy Tyner album features a septet of Tyner on piano, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and flugelhorn, Hubert Laws on flutes, Bennie Maupin on tenor sax and bass clarinet, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes and marimba, Stanley Clarke on acoustic bass, Bill Summers on congas and percussion, and the uncredited Jack DeJohnette on drums.
Tyner with Hutcherson is always a treat. Add Hubbard and the under-appreciated Maupin and you're onto something. DeJohnette, Laws and Clarke are no slouches (and I’m certain Bill Summers' mother loves him). Anyway, all-star lineups can be dangerous ego clashes and can often disappoint, but not this one. This was recorded in 1978, a dark time for robust large groups like this one. Hubbard was farther removed from his glory days with Blue Note than Maupin was from his fiery stints with Lee Morgan, Miles, et al. Tyner, of course, was more than ten years removed from John Coltrane, and still on the way to earning the widespread recognition he rightly enjoys today. On this one, everyone plays as if he had something to prove.
Tyner's soloing here shows the fire he displayed with the Coltrane quartet. His "Nubia" and Laws' "Shades of Light" are high-energy, impassioned workouts that would have been at home on the leader's Blue Note releases of a decade earlier. Laws' flute interlude on "Shades of Light" adds a light but piquant textural shift to the declamatory sonorities of Tyner's chording. Hubbard reaches for the sky on "Nubia," DeJohnette's "Bayou Fever," and his own "One of Another Kind." DeJohnette is all over the place. Maupin and Clarke have a spine-tingling bass clarinet / bowed bass duet in the middle of "Bayou Fever." Hutcherson sounds a bit down in the mix, but is (as always) bright and inventive: see especially his quick-witted melodicism on his own "Highway One."
Tyner displays the deft arranger's touch he would use so well later with his big bands: see "One of Another Kind" for just one example of his sensitive use of all these horns.
For Tyner fans, this is a must-have. For anyone, this is a fine, above-average jazz recording.