McCoy Tyner, a cornerstone of John Coltrane’s groundbreaking 1960s quartet and one of the most influential pianists in jazz history, died on March 6, 2020 at his home in northern New Jersey. He was 81. His nephew Colby Tyner confirmed the death. No other details were provided.
Along with Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and only a few others, Tyner was one of the main expressways of modern jazz piano. Nearly every jazz pianist since Tyner’s years with Coltrane has had to learn his lessons, whether they ultimately discarded them or not. Tyner’s manner was modest, but his sound was rich, percussive and serious, his lyrical improvisations centered by powerful left-hand chords marking the first beat of the bar and the tonal center of the music.
That sound helped create the atmosphere of Coltrane’s music and, to some extent, all jazz in the 1960s. (When you are thinking of Coltrane playing “My Favorite Things” or “A Love Supreme,” you may be thinking of the sound of Tyner almost as much as that of Coltrane’s saxophone.) To a great extent he was a grounding force for Coltrane. In a 1961 interview, about a year and a half after hiring Tyner, Coltrane said: “My current pianist, McCoy Tyner, holds down the harmonies, and that allows me to forget them. He’s sort of the one who gives me wings and lets me take off from the ground from time to time.”
Tyner moved to the Milestone label in 1972, an association that continued until 1981 and that brought him a higher profile and much more success. In those years he worked steadily with his own band, including at various times the saxophonists Azar Lawrence and Sonny Fortune and the drummers Alphonse Mouzon and Eric Gravatt.
His Milestone albums with his working group included “Enlightenment” (1973), recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival, which introduced one of his signature compositions, the majestic “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit.” He also recorded for the label with strings, voices, a big band and guest sidemen including the drummers Elvin Jones, Tony Williams and Jack DeJohnette.
Tyner did not use electric piano or synthesizers, or play with rock and disco backbeats, as many of the best jazz musicians did at the time; owning one of the strongest and most recognizable keyboard sounds in jazz, he was committed to acoustic instrumentation. His experiments outside the piano ran toward the koto, as heard on the 1972 album “Sahara,” and harpsichord and celeste, on “Trident” (1975).
He resisted analyzing or theorizing about his own work. He tended to talk more in terms of learning and life experience. “To me, living and music are all the same thing. And I keep finding out more about music as I learn more about myself, my environment, about all kinds of different things in life. I play what I live. Therefore, just as I can’t predict what kinds of experiences I’m going to have, I can’t predict the directions in which my music will go. I just want to write and play my instrument as I feel.” (New York Times)
And here is one of his brilliant concert … listen and enjoy !
Recorded live at the Donaueschinger Musiktage, Donaueschingen, Germany
October 20, 1974. Very good satellite broadcast.
Juini (Joony) Booth (bass)
Wilbert B (Wilby) Fletcher (drums)
Guilherme Franco (percussion)
Azar Lawrence (saxophone)
McCoy Tyner (piano)
01. Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit (Tyner) 17.41
02. In A Sentimental Mood (Ellington) 6.26
03. Love Bossa (Powell/ de Moraes) 26.39
04. Radio outro 0.21
McCoy Tyner (December 11, 1938 – March 6, 2020)