McCoy Tyner's career was at a commercial low in the late 1960s as he struggled to forge an identity for himself as a solo artist in the years following the death of John Coltrane. But as Mosaic's 3-CD collection of overlooked Tyner recordings from 1968-70 (originally issued as Expansions, Extensions, Asante and Cosmos) makes clear, the period was anything but fallow for him creatively.
The set brings together the final six sessions the pianist made for Blue Note before beginning a long, fruitful relationship with Milestone. Much of this materialnearly all which was composed by Tynerwent unreleased for years and some of it has never been issued on CD until now. That's a shame because this is some of the most intense, explorative and exhilarating music Tyner ever made, mixing modal jazz and the avant-garde, Eastern and African influences, Coltrane-inspired spirituality and fiery, passionate soloing.
Tyner is heard in a variety of settings ranging from a trio (with bassist Herbie Lewis and drummer Freddie Waits) to a nonet with strings. A memorable 1970 date brings Tyner together with an explosive sextet featuring his old Coltrane cohort Elvin Jones, Ron Carter, Gary Bartz, Wayne Shorter and Alice Coltrane (a rare encounter between Tyner and his successor in the John Coltrane group). The group's intensity on Tyner-penned tunes like "The Wanderer and "Survival Blues is nearly overwhelming, especially the powerful empathy between the peerless Jones and Tyner. Also of special note is another 1970 session joining Tyner, saxophonist Andrew White, guitarist Ted Dunbar, bassist Buster Williams, drummer Billy Hart and percussionist Mtume on an unusual set of free-form African-inspired tunes like "Malika and "Asante.
Taken together, the three discs on this limited-edition set fill a gaping hole in the discography of one of the leading figures in jazz over the past forty years. This is compelling, adventurous music that is highly recommended.