McCoy Albert Tyner was a remarkable pianist, best known for having played in the John Coltrane Quartet, which was one of the most renowned in the history of jazz. Tyner's music, which was influenced by Coltrane and Chick Corea, intertwines the codes of modal jazz, hard bop, jazz fusion and free jazz. It makes use of instruments not commonly used in the world of jazz, such as the harpsichord, celesta and koto.
McCoy Tyner was taught music and the piano by his mother, and became interested in jazz from an early age. He studied music at the West Philadelphia Music School and the Granoff School of Music. In Philadelphia, he met pianists Richie and Bud Powell, who gave him valuable advice and tips about jazz piano technique. In 1959, shortly after his studies, he joined the "Jazztet" led by Benny Golson and Art Farmer.
Also in Philadelphia, McCoy Tyner met the saxophonist John Coltrane and joined his famous Quartet in 1960. It was made up of John Coltrane on saxophone, Jimmy Garrison on double bass, Elvin Jones on drums and Tyner on piano. In 1960 the band recorded the album My Favorite Things, which became a landmark in the history of jazz. Tyner recorded other albums with John Coltrane (first for the Atlantic label, then for Impulse). He made recordings as a sideman for the Blue Note label, backing artists such as Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Stanley Turrentine, Grant Green, Hank Mobley, Donald Byrd, Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter.
McCoy Tyner left John Coltrane's quartet in 1965 and the following year started recording under his own name for the Blue Note label, producing several "post-bop" albums such as The Real McCoy (1967), Tender Moments (1967), Time for Tyner (1968), Expansions (1968) and Extensions (1970). From 1972 onwards, he recorded for the Milestone label: notably the Sahara album in 1973. Drawing on his experiences with John Coltrane, he often incorporated African and East Asian musical elements. In 1978, he toured with the Milestone Jazzstars, playing alongside Sonny Rollins on tenor saxophone, Ron Carter on double bass and Al Foster on drums. He followed that up with a prolific recording career for Columbia, Blue Note, Elektra and Telarc. In the 1980s and '90s, he made recordings and gave concerts with his trio, made up of Avery Sharpe on bass and first Louis Hayes then Aaron Scott on drums. From 2008 onwards, he toured with his quartet, which consisted of Gary Bartz on saxophone, Gerald Cannon on bass and Eric Kamau Gravatt on drums.
Six landmark dates in the life of McCoy Tyner:
1955: Converted to Islam and changed his name to Sulieman Saud.
1973: The album Sahara was named "Album of the Year" by the DownBeat Critics Poll.
1977: Named "Pianist of the Year" for the fourth time in a row by DownBeat.
1988: Received a Grammy Award for "Best Jazz Instrumental Performance" for the album Blues for Coltrane - A Tribute to John Coltrane.
2002: Received a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Award.
2004: Steinway and Sons conferred a special gold medallion on him for his long association with the piano company since 1977
Biography compiled from Radio France Musical Documentation (September 2014)