One of the three most influential pianists of his generation (along with Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea), McCoy Tyner is a true jazz giant. And more than 40 years after gaining widespread acclaim as the pianist in the classic John Coltrane Quartet, the 65-year-old Tyner shows no signs of slowing down. Like fellow Coltrane alum Elvin Jones, Tyner remains a vital force in modern jazz, leading a series of consistently excellent small groups and big bands, including the fiery new quartet featured on his latest release. Land of Giants,
recorded after the quartet won raves at a 2002 London engagement, reunites Tyner with a fellow giant of forward-thinking '60s jazz, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, on a set of seven fresh Tyner originals – an impressive mix of Latin numbers, modal burners and a Coltrane-esque blues – plus three standards. And while the two veterans (along with the fine bass/drum combo of Charnett Moffett and Eric Harland) may not reach the epic heights of some of their earlier collaborations (like Hutcherson's 1965 Stick-Up!
or the 1993 duet album, Manhattan Moods
), they prove themselves still kindred spirits and still among the most exciting, advanced improvisers on the scene.
Tyner's huge, heavily percussive piano remains one of the most identifiable – and inimitable – sounds in jazz; but he also has an underrated lyrical side, revealed to great effect here on "For All We Know" and Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone." Hutcherson is Tyner's perfect foil, matching the leader's whirlwind keyboard forays with his own imposing, harmonically rich runs on the vibes.
McCoy Tyner’s been so good and so prolific for so long that his excellence seems a given. But give credit where it is due – he has earned a place in the land of giants.