Music Review

Book Reviews and Reading Diary
CD Buying Guide and Music Links
Best-of lists
CD Reviews
CDs, sorted by Style
CDs, sorted by year issued
CDs, sorted by publication review ran in
CDs by San Diego bands
All CDs, sorted by band name
All CDs, sorted by album title
Favorite quotations
Contact Me

The sweetest vintage

Land of Giants
Land of Giants
By McCoy Tyner

Telarc Records: 2003

Buy it on CD now from
Buy it now

This review first appeared in the Summer 2003 issue of Turbula.

Jazz pianist McCoy Tyner is one of those quiet figures who lends the music both its mystery and its soul. Tyner is a cat whose name still conjures up memories and images from the '50s, one of those pioneers you vaguely know you're supposed to be hip to but haven't gotten around to checking out.

And he's all of those things and more: a man who held the piano chair in John Coltrane's quartet during the late saxophonist's most influential and successful period. And he's also still with us, still performing and growing and pushing.

And recording.

His latest disc shows that Tyner is no museum piece; if not a publicity-generating headliner like his contemporary Oscar Peterson, he remains a giant of his instrument, one of the very best to tackle improvisational American music from the piano.

It is, perhaps, due to the contemplative nature of his music that Tyner has always been a below the radar kind of star. His music isn't loud or showy; it's formidable power comes from elsewhere. And he doesn't demand the spotlight; even on his own recordings, such as this one, "Land of Giants," Tyner shares the spotlight as organically, naturally as he plays.

It's apparently just who he is: a quiet, unassuming man who plays some of the most sophisticated jazz piano on the face of the earth. Tyner provides the same combination of support and challenge when playing behind Bobby Hutcherson's vibes on this date as he did for Coltrane.

If you're playing with Tyner, he's your best friend musically – like your closest Little League buddy, there to support you and help you, but never let you give less than your best; you start slacking, he'll quietly show you up, let you know that it's not acceptable.

Running through a set of seven originals and three standards, the band of Tyner, Hutcherson, bassist Charnett Moffett and drummer Eric Harland turns out some sterling straight-ahead jazz. Hutcherson and Tyner swap the leads throughout, although both Moffett and Harland get plenty of solos, too.

Hearing music of this caliber is one of life's sweetest treats; Tyner's vintage continues to improve. If you've not turned yourself on to his brand of magic yet, it's time to stop dawdling.