McCoy Tyner has released one of his best recordings yet since signing with Telarc in 1999. Rather than exploring concepts, Tyner’s quartet on Land of Giants
performed just for the joy of performing as it took part in an extraordinary session that resulted from its appearance in London’s Barbican Hall. Acceding to the very reasonable request to record that group that brought that audience to its feet, Tyner’s quartet went into the studio to re-create the music that had been performed. Much of the music consists of Tyner originals, providing proof of his under-recognized talent as a composer. In fact, several of the tunes such as "Serra Do Mar" and "Manalyuca," which had appeared on earlier albums, remind listeners of Tyner’s ability to capture the rhythmic essense of Latin music, the clavé present in some of Tyner’s jazz performances as well.
While Tyner enthuasiasts are well aware of his signature left hand work and the crispness of his right-hand improvisations, scampering and prodding, the more notable aspect of his playing that stands front and center on Land of Giants
is his ability to swing. The quartet lets it be known that the members enjoy performing with each other, and spur-of-the-moment musical ideas abound. The swing of "Steppin’" reaches crescendoes of tension before the final release of the strung-together choruses, or "In a Mellow Tone" contains the same sense of irresistible swing but in a more relaxed fashion.
All of the members of McCoy’s quartet contribute collectively and individually to its success. Of course, Bobby Hutcherson is well known for his ability to contribute excellence and memorability to any group he joins. But one of the surprises of Land of Giants
is Charnett Moffett’s hard-driving work, certainly a match for Tyner’s aggressiveness on piano. His arco solo on "Manalyuca" is particularly show stopping. And then there’s Eric Harland on drums, featured in the introduction to "The Search," as he arouses interest and excitement before Tyner finally comes in.
This remarkable quartet, the one that entertained the crowd at Barbican Hall so supremely, might have gone unrecorded and unremembered by future generations. Fortunately, foresight prevailed, and now the work of Tyner and his fellow musicians can be not only appreciated, but enjoyed.