McCoy Tyner was an American jazz pianist and composer, known for his distinctive style and his contributions to the development of modern jazz. He was born on December 11, 1938, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and passed away on March 6, 2020, in New York City. Tyner began studying piano at a young age, and by the age of 17, he was playing professionally in Philadelphia clubs. In the late 1950s, he moved to New York City, where he quickly established himself as a rising star in the jazz world.
In 1960, Tyner joined the John Coltrane Quartet, which would become one of the most influential groups in the history of jazz. Tyner’s distinctive, percussive style was a perfect complement to Coltrane’s intense, searching saxophone sound. Together, they recorded a series of groundbreaking albums, including “My Favorite Things,” “A Love Supreme,” and “Ascension.” After leaving Coltrane’s group in 1965, Tyner formed his own groups and continued to record and tour as a bandleader. His music drew on a wide range of influences, including African music, modal jazz, and avant-garde experimentation.
Throughout his career, Tyner recorded over 80 albums as a leader and appeared on countless others as a sideman. His music was characterized by his powerful, driving piano style, his use of unconventional chord voicings and harmonies, and his ability to create intricate, dynamic group interplay. In addition to his contributions to jazz as a performer and composer, Tyner was also an important educator, teaching at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and at the University of California, Los Angeles. He also published several instructional books on jazz piano.
Tyner was the recipient of numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including five Grammy Awards, the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award, and the Kennedy Center Honors. He remains one of the most important and influential figures in the history of jazz, and his legacy continues to inspire musicians and audiences around the world.