McCoy Tyner

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McCoy Tyner (1973)

Alfred McCoy Tyner (born December 11, 1938 in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania , † March 6, 2020 in New Jersey ) was an American jazz pianist and composer .

Live and act

At the urging of his mother, McCoy Tyner began playing the piano at the age of 13 . In Philadelphia he met his friends Mickey Roker and Lee Morgan regularly for jam sessions in their respective apartments. Tyner has performed with jazz groups since he was 15. Early influences were the brothers Bud and Richie Powell , who lived in the neighborhood. Around this time he called himself Sulieman Saud as a converted Sunni Muslim , but later worked again under his maiden name. It was in Philadelphia that he first met John Coltrane , with whom he appeared at the Red Rooster club .

Tyner (1989)

From 1959 he played for six months in the jazz group of Art Farmer and Benny Golson , before joining John Coltrane in 1960, with whom he recorded Coltrane Plays the Blues in the same year . In 1962 the classic John Coltrane Quartet was formed with Coltrane, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones , in which he played a leading role until 1965. During this time Tyner worked on albums such as A Love Supreme (1964, Impulse! ), And Crescent (1964, Impulse!), As well as sideman on Joe Henderson's debut album Page One in June 1963. According to Ian Carr , this was John Coltrane Quartet arguably the most influential quartet in jazz history, and Tyner played a key role in it.

Tyner also played with saxophonist Wayne Shorter for Blue Note Records , as on the album Night Dreamer 1964, and from 1962 records under his own name on the Impulse label ! published on which Elvin Jones, Art Davis and Jimmy Garrison contributed. From 1966 Tyner appeared as a soloist or with his own trio or quartet in the United States , Europe and Japan . During this time, Tyner also worked with Ike and Tina Turner , Jimmy Witherspoon, and other artists. In 1967 his epochal album The Real McCoy was released on the Blue Note Records label, with Joe Henderson , Ron Carter and again Elvin Jones. With a larger cast (including Lee Morgan and Joe Chambers ), Tyner recorded the album Tender Moments (1967), whose first title Mode to John he dedicated to the recently deceased John Coltrane.

In the early 1970s, Tyner moved to Orrin Keepnews ' label Milestone, for which he recorded albums such as Sahara (1972), the solo album Echoes of a Friend (1972), Enlightenment (1973, with Azar Lawrence ) and Fly With The Wind (1976) . In 1978 he played with the Milestone Jazz Stars (with Sonny Rollins , Ron Carter and Al Foster, among others ). In 1988 the big band production Uptown / Downtown , u. a. with Kamau Muata Adilifu , Howard Johnson , Robin Eubanks and Steve Turré . 1989 returned Tyner for Blue Note label back and took the Ellington album Things Is not That What They Used to Be (some duets with George Adams and John Scofield ) and the duo album Manhattan Moods (1993) with Bobby Hutcherson on . After two albums for Impulse! Tyner switched to the Telarc label in 1998. One of his rare appearances as a sideman in the 1980s and 1990s was his participation in the David Murray album Special Quartet , created in 1990.

His music

In addition to the Powell brothers, Tyner was influenced early on by Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum , but developed his very own style-defining identity during his time in the Coltrane Quartet. Coltrane praised Tyner's independent piano playing: “His greatest gift is his melodic ingenuity, [...] the clarity of his ideas. He also has a very personal sound on the piano - a sound that is particularly clear and bright because of the clusters he uses and the way in which he individualizes them [...] In addition, McCoy has an unusual sense of form [ ...] He never plays conventional clichés. And finally: McCoy has taste. He can take what he wants and make something wonderful out of it. ”According to Coltrane biographer Bill Cole, Tyner managed early on to form“ a synthesis of Garland , Monk and Wynton Kelly ”; "He has a strong left hand, and he shows early on his great ability to accompany with extremely imaginative harmonies". His colleague Richie Beirach emphasizes the style-forming element of the stride piano of the Tatum school: “McCoy took the stride piano as one of his main stylistic elements - with the fifths in the bass and the chords in the middle of the keyboard. That's what I call innovation when you take something from the past and incorporate it into the vocabulary of the present. "

Martin Kunzler analyzed Tyner's innovations: “He freed the harmony from its tonic form binding. He countered the functional harmony with a new, modally [...] based harmonic concept. With this transformation of the linear sound organization into the vertical and its expansion, the pianist created considerable improvisational freedom for himself and the soloists. "McCoy Tyner reflected on his role in the Coltrane Quartet:" The group functioned primarily as a closed unit. If I were to extract and analyze my role in it, all I can really say was that it was that of an orchestra. In other words: I had to give the quartet the fullness of sound. Or, as John used to say: the density and fullness. Now a piano can actually be treated like an orchestra, and that's exactly what I'm trying to do and give the quartet a sound that became fuller, denser, more comprehensive. "

After Ian Carr , Tyner has always played compositionally, with a forward-looking view of the music and an unwavering instinct for when to improvise and when to play with the rhythm section to aid the soloist. He counted him among the most dynamically playing pianists; Tyner never plays “freely”, but prefers to play tonally and in a controlled manner. In an interview with Joachim-Ernst Berendt , Tyner said that all music is “a journey of the soul into new, unexplored territory. [...] I try to hear the music from many different countries, from Africa, India, from the Arab world, European classical music ... all kinds of music are interconnected. ” Tyner explained about the characteristic of his powerful playing :“ You have to become one with the instrument. You start learning an instrument, but at first the piano is nothing more than an object. But then you and your instrument become one. ”With his characteristic sound, McCoy Tyner influenced many subsequent pianists such as Hal Galper , John Hicks , Henry Butler , Joanne Brackeen and the German Joachim Kühn .

Tyner composed some well-known tracks such as Passion Dance , Contemplation , Blues on the Corner , Land of the Lonely , Celestial Chant , Enlightenment Suite and Desert Cry .


The album Journey , recorded with the McCoy Tyner Big Band, won a 1995 Grammy Award in the category "Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance". Tyner's album Infinity (with Michael Brecker ) won a Grammy in 1996 in the category "Best Jazz Instrumental Performance". In 2002 he received the Jazz Masters Fellowship from the state NEA Foundation .


His brother is the communist politician and former candidate for Vice President of the United States Jarvis Tyner .

Discographic notes

  • The Real McCoy (1967, Blue Note) with Joe Henderson
  • Time for Tyner (1968, Blue Note)
  • Enlightenment (1973, Milestone)
  • Song of the New World (1973, Milestone)
  • Focal Point (1976, Milestone)
  • Supertrios (1977, Milestone) in two trios with Ron Carter (b) / Tony Williams (d) and Eddie Gomez (b) / Jack DeJohnette (d)
  • Uptown / Downtown (1988, Milestone)
  • Soliloquy 1992, (Blue Note)
  • Manhattan Moods (1993, Blue Note)
  • McCoy Tyner and the Latin All Stars (1999, TelArc)
  • With Stanley Clarke and Al Foster (2000, Telarc)
  • Land of Giants (2003, Telarc) with Bobby Hutcherson


Web links

Commons : McCoy Tyner  - album with pictures, videos and audio files


Individual evidence

  1. Ben Ratliff: McCoy Tyner, Jazz Piano Powerhouse, Is Dead at 81 . In: The New York Times . March 6, 2020, ISSN  0362-4331 ( [accessed March 6, 2020]).
  2. Information on conversion ,, accessed on March 7, 2020
  3. cf. Carr , p. 653.
  4. Ian Carr describes The Real McCoy in the "Jazz Rough Guide" as one of the most perfect albums of the late 1960s. Cook and Morton count it among McCoy Tyner's best works and awarded it the highest grade.
  5. Leonard Feather : Tender Moments (Original Liner Notes for the album)
  6. cf. Carr, p. 654. He quotes Coltrane: “He gets a very personal sound from this instrument and because of the clusters he uses and the way he voies them, that sound is brighter than what would normally be expected from most of the chord patterns he plays. In addition, McCoy has an exceptionally well developed sense of form both as a soloist and an accompanist. Invariably in our group, he will take a tune and built his own structure for it. "
  7. cit. according to Kunzler , p. 1205.
  8. cit. according to Kunzler, p. 1206.
  9. cit. according to Kunzler, p. 1206.
  10. cit. according to Kunzler, p. 1206.
  11. Berendt / Huesmann, p. 376.
  12. cit. after Berendt / Huesmann, p. 376.