Since leaving the John Coltrane Quartet McCoy Tyner has recorded a lot of albums as a leader, a fact that is often overlooked by many jazz fans. The period immediately after his exit from the Coltrane band was a fruitful one, with The Real McCoy and Tender Moments (the latter featuring an octet) both recorded the prior year. Time for Tyner, though, is a significant recording, featuring as it does vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, with whom Tyner still records and tours periodically. They are perfectly complementary musicians on this CD, and it says much about their musical relationship that they still find it fruitful to work together after all these years.
The album is split into two parts, which correspond to the sides of the original vinyl release. The first three tracks are Tyner originals, all very representative of his work at the time, being logical extensions of the modal work that he did with Coltrane. Tyner’s playing, too, is similar in style to his playing with the quartet. “African Village,” for example, is a sound that most Coltrane listeners will find familiar. There’s a difference in the emotional level without Trane, of course, but the ideas are much the same.
Following an explosive intro solo by drummer Freddie Waits (father of currently well-known drummer Nasheet Waits) Hutcherson comes in to articulate the melody, while Tyner offers commentary and some roiling left-hand figures. Over the course of its twelve minutes, the piece builds very nicely, with Hutcherson and Tyner both offering very well designed solos while the other backs the soloist and goads him towards greater heights. Bassist Herbie Lewis offers a bowed solo that is accompanied only by Waits’ drum work and is a standout.
“Little Mandimba” has a less swinging beat, but again uses the modal approach quite effectively. Tyner’s playing here is among his best-recorded work, and between Tyner and Hutcherson, the listener never finds him or herself thinking “gee, maybe they should have added a horn in there for texture.” “May Street” features an out of time Tyner introduction before heading into an uptempo groove with Lewis and Waits playing much more lightly than on the previous two tracks.
The remaining three tracks—the second side of Time for Tyner—present three standards. “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” offers an easygoing swing beat, but Tyner gets ‘out there’ at times, recalling his work with Coltrane, before sliding easily back into a series of block chords that return the song to its harmonic universe.
“Surrey With the Fringe on Top” is an uptempo workout that finds Tyner playing lengthy right-hand phrases with little left-hand accompaniment, a bit of a change from his more familiar pianistic style. Tyner closes out with a solo piano version of “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” which shows a wide array of influences and demonstrates that Tyner had absorbed the lessons of the major pianists who came before him prior to striking out on the modal path with Trane.
Time for Tyner is one of McCoy Tyner’s best recordings as a leader, and the fact that it features Hutcherson as well gives it classic status. For those interested in Tyner or jazz piano in general, this reissue is a must-have.