McCoy Tyner Biography

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Echoes of a Friend

Alfred McCoy Tyner, 11 December 1938, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Beginning in his early teens, Tyner studied piano formally for several years before joining the jazztet led by Benny Golson and Art Farmer in 1959. The following year he joined John Coltrane, with whom he had previously gigged in Philadelphia. He remained with Coltrane until 1965 in what became known as the tenorman’s ‘classic quartet’, touring internationally and recording numerous albums, including celebrated works such as Impressions (1963) and A Love Supreme (1965). In the late 60s he led his own trio, backed many artists of jazz and popular music, and began to record under his own name. Throughout the 70s Tyner toured and recorded, usually with a quartet or quintet. Several of his albums achieved considerable critical and popular success, some winning awards. He continued touring and recording through the 80s, most often as leader but he also played with Sonny Rollins in the Milestone Jazzstars. Early in his career Tyner was influenced by Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum, but during his years with Coltrane he developed his own distinctive style.

Tyner was not content simply to ‘comp’ with his left hand, but played in a vigorous two-handed manner that echoed the vibrancy and rhythmic excitement of his influences. His playing and, especially, his composing also displayed an advanced harmonic awareness. In some of his later work Tyner has adopted stylistic devices from other fields of music, incorporating African and Asian ethnic music and elements of the European classical tradition. More surprising was his 1997 album of Burt Bacharach music, displaying Tyner’s affection for the composer’s lush melodic pop, although by 2000 he had returned to his roots with Jazz Roots. Tyner is now one of the select few artists who lived and prospered creatively through the most exciting era of jazz who are still making records. Younger talent such as Joe Lovano, Christian McBride and Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts (on his 2007 quartet recording) are the musicians who wish to play with with this surviving giant of jazz.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.