McCoy Tyner, one of the most influential pianists in jazz history, died Friday at his home in northern New Jersey. He was 81 and his death was confirmed by a nephew. No cause was given.
Tyner was a part of John Coltrane’s seminal 1960s quartet, and his distinctive, clean and percussive sound on acoustic piano was an influence on everyone who followed him. Even Coltrane acknowledged his force when he said, “He’s sort of the one who gives me wings and lets me take off from the ground from time to time.”
Born in Philadelphia in 1938 as Alfred McCoy Tyner, he began taking piano lessons at 13. His mother bought him his first piano, setting it up in her beauty shop. Tyner later studied at the Granoff School of Music, and began playing professionally at age 16 with a rhythm & blues band. In 1957, he met saxophone legend John Coltrane at a Philadelphia nightclub, and the two became fast friends.
Tyner worked with various jazz acts until Coltrane called on him to join forces in 1960. They recorded their first music that fall, creating cuts later found on the albums My Favorite Things, Coltrane Jazz, Coltrane’s Sound and Coltrane Plays the Blues. Through that work and more, he became one of the most known and imitated pianists in jazz.
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