McCoy Tyner
* December 11, 1938
United States
Music group
McCoy Tyner, renowned contemporary acoustic pianist and composer in the jazz tradition began studying the instrument at thirteen, and has been performing professionally since he was fifteen. Beatrice Tyner spotted her eldest son’s musical inclinations early and arranged for him to take lessons at the Philadelphia Music Center. Altogether, Tyner’s formal music training lasted about three years.

By high school, Tyner began to pursue his own course in the field of jazz as his life’s work, developing a highly percussive, modal approach to the piano as a result of years of constant practice, as well as performances with many well-known and local musicians leading up to and including the great John Coltrane Quartet.

Tyner’s diligence in his piano studies surfaced early. For a whole year before getting his own piano, he would practice every day after school at one of three neighbor’s homes. By the time Tyner was fourteen, his mother, who was a beautician and entrepreneur, used her earnings from her business to buy him his first instrument, a spinet. They set it up in her beauty shop, where Tyner could rehearse while his mother fixed her customers’ hair. By age fifteen, he began to display leadership qualities, organizing a seven-piece rhythm and blues group made up of neighborhood chums and schoolmates, and often holding their rehearsals and sessions right in his mother’s beauty shop. During his high school summer breaks, Tyner would commute to Atlantic City to perform in clubs with people like saxophonist Paul Jeffries and trumpeter Lee Morgan.

Tyner claims pianists Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum as his early musical influences. He met Bud Powell when he was sixteen years old. The high point of that meeting was when Bud Powell came to his house one afternoon and actually played Tyner’s piano.

Shortly after Tyner graduated from high school in 1959, saxophonist Benny Golson approached him, offering him a gig in San Francisco at the Jazz Workshop. Golson, along with trumpeter Art Farmer, was instrumental in getting Tyner situated in New York before forming the Jazztet. Golson also helped him break into the recording business. Meet the Jazztet was the debut album for the group even though it was actually Tyner’s second professional recording date. Tyner went on to achieve international acclaim in John Coltrane’s great quartet from 1960 to 1965. During the same period he also made a series of influential recordings under his own name for Blue Note and Impulse Records.

By the end of 1970, Tyner’s career began to surge forward. Later, he signed a contract with Milestone Records and gained a reputation as a leader and a devout acoustic pianist, distinguishing him from many of his renowned peers. During this period, he received his first two Grammy nominations, and was roundly hailed by many important music critics.

Tyner recorded prolifically while at Milestone, before leaving the label in 1980. He also changed his performance format from essentially a quintet ensemble to a trio. In addition, Tyner began composing and arranging music for a 14-piece big band, which was established in 1984 and toured Europe in the fall of 1990.

Tyner signed with Telarc in 1999 and released McCoy Tyner and the Latin Jazz All-Stars, an adventurous and elegant recording built upon Afro-Cuban rhythms. Featured were such seminal and familiar Latin-jazz compositions as Kenny Dorham’s “Blue Boss,” Ahmad Jamal’s “Poinciana” and Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue.” Down Beat called it a “consistently scintillating document...the sonorous, percussive pianist, with help from a crew of first-rate compadres, clearly has another avenue down which to stride with his characteristic vitality.” (****1/2)

In January 2000, Telarc released McCoy Tyner with Stanley Clarke and Al Foster, a classic trio date that captured three jazz luminaries playing a dynamic set of standards and originals. Included are two takes of Tyner’s “I Want to Tell You ‘Bout That” (the first with Clarke on electric bass, the next on acoustic). Another highlight is bass revolutionary Clarke’s “In the Tradition Of.” Tyner’s unique interpretations of standards are apparent in his renditions of “Will You Still Be Mine” and “Never Let Me Go.” October 2000 saw the release of Jazz Roots: McCoy Tyner Honors Jazz Piano Legends of the 20th Century, an adventurous solo piano tribute to great jazz pianists of the last century including Fats Waller, Art Tatum and Thelonious Monk.

Tyner (along with bassist George Mraz and drummer Al Foster) celebrated Coltrane’s 71st birthday with a show at the Village Vanguard in New York on September 23, 1997. Impulse Records released McCoy Tyner Plays John Coltrane: Live at the Village Vanguard in October 2001.

In the summer of 2005, Tyner joined forces with the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York and became the first client of Blue Note Management. That summer, Tyner began work on some unique projects, including performances with tap-dancer Savion Glover and the development of the Impulse! Septet, featuring his trio with some of today's top hornmen.

Tyner's partnership with the Blue Note has led to the formation of his own record label, aptly titled McCoy Tyner Music. The label is a subsidiary of the Blue Note's In-House record label, Half Note Records. The label launched on September 11, 2007, upon the release of Tyner's latest CD, "Quartet" featuring Joe Lovano, Christian McBride, and Jeff "Tain" Watts. Recorded live on New Year's Eve 2006, the album features a working band at its finest with some of today's "legends in training." Additionally, the record shows that Tyner, who now carries the torch as the only surviving member of the John Coltrane Quartet, is still at the top of his game as a composer, performer, and bandleader.

In review of Tyner's latest album "Quartet," Thomas Conrad of JazzTimes wrote "'Quartet' succeeds not only because everyone plays so well, but also because they play so well together. The pairing of Tyner and Lovano is synergistic. The McBride/Watts rhythm section, for intelligent propulsion, is state-of-the-art. 'Quartet' succeeds once more because of its excellent sonic quality. It was recorded by engineer Phil Edwards at Yoshi's in Oakland, Calif., over New Year's Eve weekend 2006. Almost always, even the best-sounding jazz albums require you to make a choice. You can have the visceral in-the-moment reality of a live recording, or the full bandwidth resolution of a studio session. This one has both."

McCoy Tyner's second release for the McCoy Tyner Music label is scheduled for a summer 2008 release. The recording features the stellar rhythm section of Tyner, Ron Carter, and Jack DeJohnette with four modern guitarists (and one banjo) of our time: Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, John Scofield, Derek Trucks, and Bela Fleck. The package will be a CD/DVD featuring state-of-the-art technology that allows the viewer to manually choose which musician(s) they would like to view in the studio at any time during each track. In 2009, Tyner will release his third recording for McCoy Tyner Music, a solo piano performance recorded live in San Francisco during the summer of 2007.

Tyner has always expanded his vision of the musical landscape and incorporated new elements, whether from distant continents or diverse musical influences. More recently he has arranged for big bands, employed string arrangements, and even reinterpreted popular music. Today, Tyner has released nearly 80 albums under his name, earned four Grammys and was awarded Jazz Master from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2002. He continues to leave his mark on generations of improvisers, and yet remains a disarmingly modest and spiritually directed man.
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