Review - Land of Giants

Artist: McCoy Tyner

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This is, frankly, a surprisingly progressive and aggressive set from a clutch of musicians who would do just fine to sit on their laurels. Instead, Tyner -- along with Bobby Hutcherson, another musicians who certainly has nothing left to prove -- absolutely shines in this late 2002 recording, pushing forward original material, played originally. Accompanied by a tight rhythm section (bassist Charnett Moffett and drummer Eric Harland), the melodic intensity of this set is unmistakable, as the 10 songs are all guided by Tyner's piano or Hutcherson's vibes. It's an upbeat and engaging hour of music, and with the exception of a handful of tunes, everything is a new composition. And the freshness shows. Though both Tyner and Hutcherson could be accused of falling prey to various passing trends after the idealism of the '60s faded, neither of them has lost their chops. Here, they prove their even capable of making a warhorse like "If I Were a Bell" sound exciting. When they dip into new pieces it's certainly done with a respect for the past ("Manalayuca" references a '70s piece by Tyner, while "Contemplation" could have been on any mid-period Coltrane album Tyner played on), but each track is nonetheless invigorated with a sense of forward-looking energy. Though the production -- like on many Telarc releases -- is a little too good (since when did jazz albums need to sound like they were recorded in an airtight chamber?), the performances shine through brightly.

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