The early '70s were an exciting recording period for this artist, whose initial forays outside the classic quartet of John Coltrane were just a bit too mellow, as if he was thinking, "Whew! Now I can relax." This was one of several for the Milestone label that burned energetically, although in terms of the pianist's overall career this concentrated thrust of stamina was simply a passing phase. He is captured here a few years before he settled into elder statesman status and began barely breaking a sweat on-stage. The emphasis here is often on pure power, the presence of a non-funky Alphonze Mouzon on drums something of a signature in band attitude. The nimble and fleet Calvin Hill is on bass, and Sonny Fortune is present on reeds during a stint of several years with Tyner. What really makes the album special is the enlarged ensemble that creates two of the album's most extended tracks. "Native Song" and "Essence" add flugelhorn, violin, and conga, and the fine-tuning skill of Tyner the arranger becomes present, turning the lineup of three lead instruments into something nearly symphonic. Violinist Michael White is more than a bit overpowered by Tyner, as one would expect, but it is the opposite case in terms of fireworks between brass player Charles Tolliver and the boss. Tolliver fronted a band named Music Inc. during this period who also played hard, heavy, and unrelenting jazz, pianist Stanley Cowell coming on strong with many Tyner-ish-influenced moves. It is a great meeting of the minds, as two players with sympathetic approaches toward the post-Coltrane jazz language engage in high-powered dialogue. The program is quite typical of some of Tyner's best albums for this label and Blue Note before that. All but one of the tracks are originals, featuring lovely melodies that either wash through a ballad mood or become anthems for rocket launchings, Mouzon splattering away on his cymbals like a happy child. The one standard, "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," gets a liftoff worthy of Coltrane. This is quite a fine collection of tracks and one of Tyner's six best albums.
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AllMusic Review by Eugene Chadbourne