Harold Land's final recording and his first in seven years, the great tenor saxophonist sounds stonger to me on this outing than on some of his recordings from the '70's and '80's. Compared to his work with Clifford Brown, Curtis Counce, and to a landmark date like "The Fox," his tone admittedly sounds somewhat forced, lacking the support of a continuous breathstream, but more power to him for rising to the occasion. The program is a varied mix of standards and modal originals, and all of these superb instrumentalists--Land, Mulgrew Miller, Ray Drummond, and Billy Higgins--make significant contributions on each of the tunes (though "What's New" is a duet between Land and Miller).
As for the claim that the audio represents a breakthrough in digital recording technology, I'm practically a believer after playing the disc four consecutive times without "listener's fatigue." There's no equalization, noise reduction, compression or dubbing, and as a result the rhythm section has an undeniable natural presence and depth. (It's one of the rare times I've heard a bass sound like a bass since the early '60's.) You'll have to boost the gain on your amp and adjust, but the real gain is the listener's. The recording literally opens the door to a room that is altogether inviting and accommodating. You're seated directly in front of Harold Land's saxophone (the microphone placement clearly favors him), while the sounds of the other musicians permeate the environment with stunning versimilitude. (My only quibble about the fidelity on the present session is that the bass, as on most recordings, isn't captured nearly as distinctively as tenor, piano and drums (in fact, I've never heard better-recorded percussion). I can go back to recordings that Scottie LaFaro made for Contemporary back in the '50s, and the sound of the instrument and its player is absolutely stunning in its faithfulness to the original source--which is what "high fidelity" is all about).
Stanley Crouch's liner notes focus on Land's supporting cast rather than the featured artist or the music on the disc. If you're unfamiliar with Harold Land's earlier work, start with the Brown/Roach recordings (heresy, but I prefer the Land sessions to those with Rollins) or "The Curtis Counce Group" (which opens with Harold's remarkable "Landslide" followed by his exquisite ballad treatment of "Time After Time"). But if you're already well aware of this diminutive musician who was one of the true titans of the tenor saxophone, "Promised Land" is another gold strike from the Land mine.