McCoy Tyner Dies: Jazz Piano Giant With Resume In Soundtracks, Film, TV Was 81

Legendary pianist McCoy Tyner looks to the audience after performing at the botanical Garden Citta' Studi, in Milan, Italy, Thursday, July 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno) AP Images

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.

Tyner also recorded his own albums for the Impulse label and worked as a sideman, appearing with Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter and Bobby Hutcherson, among others. When he left Coltrane’s group at the end of 1965, he joined Art Blakey’s touring band. He spent the rest of his career in various solo and combo incarnations, a stalwart of the acoustic piano in an era where synthesizers and electronic keyboards dominated.
Beyond music, Tyner did a soundtrack cut for Disney’s The Descendants, appeared as himself in HBO’s Treme, and had many TV performances and documentary appearances.
Survivors include his wife, Aisha Tyner; his son, Nurudeen, his brother, Jarvis; his sister, Gwendolyn-Yvette Tyner; and three grandchildren. No memorial plans have been announced.

This article was printed from