Happy Birthday, McCoy Tyner!

Pianist Alfred McCoy Tyner was born December 11, 1938 in Philadelphia.

McCoy Tyner bares his soul through the piano

When he was 17, McCoy Tyner converted to Islam through the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and changed his name to Sulieman Saud. To hear more of his music, click the image.

He began studying piano at age 13, and by 22 he was part of John Coltrane’s classic quartet. He played with Coltrane for 5 years, then set out to lead his own band and projects. Tyner has continuously recorded and performed to audiences worldwide.

McCoy is featured performing live in Hamburg, Germany. Growing up in Philadelphia, Tyner’s piano playing was shaped early on by Bud Powell. He became the first pianist in “Art Farmer’s Jazztet” and in 1960 joined up with his good friend John Coltrane’s Quartet along with drummer Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison on bass. He also appeared as accompanist on the popular Coltrane record “My Favorite Things.” In 1966 he began rehearsing with an new trio embarking on a solo career he produced a series of five albums released on Blue Note Records over the next three years.

Tyner’s first main exposure came with Benny Golson, being the first pianist in Golson’s and Art Farmer’s Jazztet (1960). After departing the Jazztet, Tyner joined Coltrane’s group in 1960 during its extended run at the Jazz Gallery, replacing Steve Kuhn. (Coltrane had known Tyner for a while in Philadelphia, and featured one of the pianist’s compositions, “The Believer”, as early as 1958.) He appeared on the saxophonist’s popular recording of “My Favorite Things” for Atlantic Records. The Coltrane Quartet, which consisted of Coltrane on saxophone, Tyner, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums, toured almost non-stop between 1961 and 1965 and recorded a number of albums, including Live! at the Village Vanguard, Ballads, Live at Birdland, Crescent, A Love Supreme, and The John Coltrane Quartet Plays, on the Impulse! label.

Tyner has recorded a number of highly influential albums in his own right. While in Coltrane’s group, he recorded a series (primarily in the piano trio format) for Impulse! Records. The pianist also appeared as a sideman on many of the highly acclaimed Blue Note albums of the 1960s, although was often credited as “etc.” on the cover of these albums (when listing the sidemen on the album) in order to respect his contractual obligations at Impulse!

His involvement with Coltrane came to an end in 1965. Coltrane’s music was becoming much more atonal and free; he had also augmented his quartet with percussion players who threatened to drown out both Tyner and Jones: “I didn’t see myself making any contribution to that music… All I could hear was a lot of noise. I didn’t have any feeling for the music, and when I don’t have feelings, I don’t play.” By 1966, Tyner was rehearsing with a new trio and embarked on his career as a leader.

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