Aug 23, 2018
McCoy Tyner left his long-time collaborator John Coltrane in 1965, as the band began moving deeper into atonal avant-garde music, the “Classic Quartet” often supplemented by extra percussion that seemed to negate the need for Tyner’s contributions. Already a known commodity as a session man for the top labels, for the next few years he continued his sideman work at Blue Note, recording a series of albums with Stanley Turrentine (including The Spoiler) and Hank Mobley (including A Caddy for Daddy). In 1967 he began a particularly fruitful period of recording, making seven albums over the next four years as a leader, beginning with the classic The Real McCoy.
He made two topnotch albums in 1968. He recorded Time for Tyner on May 17, 1968 at Van Gelder Studios, an album with a chamber-jazz feel. The band was a quartet that featured Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Herbie Lewis on bass, and Freddie Waits on drums. Composed of three McCoy originals and three covers, it would pale in comparison to the star power and musical adventurousness that Expansions would display three months later.
At the same Van Gelder Studios, on August 23, 1968, Tyner brought together the same core rhythm group from Time for Tyner, but this time added some of the big guns of the Blue Note jazz roster – Woody Shaw on trumpet, Gary Bartz on alto sax, Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, and Ron Carter on cello. Expansions had five tracks, four of them originals, including three tunes that stretched over ten minutes each. The result would be described as “stimulating music (that) falls between advanced hard bop and the avant-garde, pushing and pulling at the boundaries of modern mainstream jazz.”
The album was not released until almost two years later, seeing the light of day in June 1970. Why? Likely it was that the label was not pushing noncommercial jazz in the late Sixties, seeing the possibilities for cashing in on the fusion sound that Columbia was putting out with Miles Davis and later the Mahavishnu Orchestra; and the CTI jazz-R&B-fusion sound. By that time, Tyner had moved on from Blue Note, and begun a decade-long partnership with Milestone Records, where he would make some of his finest and most adventurous albums.