Pianist McCoy Tyner and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson have collaborated on and off since the mid-1960s, when they would play on each other’s Blue Note albums, like the former’s “Time for Tyner” and the latter’s “Stick-Up!” The rapport between the two continues to this day via “Land of Giants,” an excellent new album for Telarc in SACD surround sound, and a must-hear duo appearance at the Jazz Bakery this week.
Yet while the album has the usual rhythm support of bass and drums, at the Bakery Tyner and Hutcherson were communing only with each other. In this setting, nothing more would be necessary. The pair created plenty of sound and drive on their own, with Tyner’s stamping foot often pounding out the pulse. On previous occasions, Tyner’s thick, larger-than-life textures, combined with competing bass and drums, have overloaded the Bakery’s over-resonant acoustics; dispensing with the rhythm section cleared much of the air.
McCoy came out alone to start the first set Tuesday night, turning his mentor-employer John Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice” into a glorious blur, full of his trademark crunching big chords, runs and smears. With Hutcherson on board, they wheeled into “Manalyuca” from the new album, with Tyner running down an insistent, repeated modal vamp and Hutcherson rippling notes all over the instrument. Later on, they would give “St. Louis Blues” a joyous, stomping ride.
Such a mighty collision between Tyner’s roaring waves of piano and the prodigious vibraphone technique of Hutcherson inevitably led to bombastic passages. Yet they were always kept in context, for the two know how to pace their improvisations, the music surging and ebbing dramatically, sprinkled with jazz history references to Art Tatum, the stride pianists and Milt Jackson.
Catch these two hugely influential players while they are continuing to make some history themselves.