02. There Is No Greater Love 6:07
03. Blues For Gwen 4:16
04. Sunset 4:30
05. Effendi 6:23
06. Speak Low 6:05
Bass – Art Davis
Drums – Elvin Jones
Piano – McCoy Tyner
Producer – Bob Thiele
Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on January 10 (tracks 1, 4, 5) and 11 (tracks 2, 3, 6), 1962.
Those familiar with the dense, percussive style that pianist McCoy Tyner has cultivated since the 1970s onwards may be surprised by what they hear on Inception. Like Reaching Fourth and Nights of Ballads and Blues, this album gives listeners the chance to hear what a very young Tyner sounded like outside the confines of the classic John Coltrane quartet of the early '60s; it reveals a lyrical approach to jazz piano that seems a far cry from Tyner's mature style. The choice of material is fairly evenly split between modal pieces like "Inception" and more harmonically involved tunes like "Speak Low," and the pianist's treatment of both demonstrates the extent to which his early work was rooted in bebop. Tyner had yet to develop the massive orchestral sound and highly distinctive vocabulary of modal licks that would mark his later style, and throughout this album he spins dizzyingly long and singing lines with an exquisitely light touch. The irresistible rush of forward momentum that he maintains on tracks like "Effendi" and "Blues for Gwen" is breathtaking, and there is an exuberant, almost athletic quality to much of his solo work. Bassist Art Davis and drummer Elvin Jones provide superb accompaniment throughout, and they lay a solid rhythmic foundation for Tyner's sparkling melodic flights. The pianist's penchant for drama, which asserts itself more strongly in his later work, is on brief display in the original ballad "Sunset"; his skills as an arranger, though evident on several tracks, are perhaps best illustrated by the intricate contrapuntal treatment of "There Is No Greater Love."
Though two tracks from October 1960 were previously issued under McCoy Tyner's name, they were outtakes from John Coltrane dates where the saxophonist sat out. Inception marks the pianist's first proper release as bandleader, with the sessions for Impulse! taking place at Rudy Van Gelder's studio on January 10 and 11, 1962. Of the set's six tracks, four are Tyner compositions, with "Effendi" becoming something of a modern jazz standard and embraced, most notably, by pianist Ahmad Jamal.
A trio setting with bassist Art Davis and drummer Elvin Jones, Inception is a strong debut, though not necessarily indicative of the monster player Tyner would become. His fleet-fingered, lyrical right hand is in full force but the thundering left hand, which would become something of his trademark, is not really evident here, partly due to the material, which is a bit more subdued when compared to the raucous repertoire that busied Tyner in his regular job at the time: manning the piano bench for Coltrane. That said, ballads and slower blues, like many of those on Inception, have remained an important part of Tyner's songbook throughout his career.
The program does pick up intensity as it progresses, with "Effendi" and the pianist's album-closing take on Kurt Weil and Ogden Nash's "Speak Low" highlighting Jones' percolating drum work, Tyner's dexterity and the symbiosis shared between them.