One of the great jazz pianists of the past 50 years, McCoy Tyner is credited with developing a blues-based, rhythmically charged playing style. At 22, he accompanied John Coltrane on the classic album My Favorite Things (1960) and joined the saxophonist's seminal quartet that same year. In the 1970s, Tyner gained recognition as an important artist in his own right, emerging from Coltrane's shadow. More than 40 years after his debut, the composer, arranger, bandleader and musician is far from recreating his glory days, continuing instead to steer his truly unique sound in new directions.
McCoy Tyner grew up in Philadelphia in the 1950s, a fertile period for the city's jazz and R&B scene. The Tyner family's neighbourhood residents included Bud and Richie Powell, who were both early influences on McCoy. At 13, he began playing piano; at 17, he met legendary saxophonist and Miles Davis sideman John Coltrane; at 21, the young pianist made his recording debut with Art Farmer and Benny Golson's Jazztet.
Continuing his impressive momentum, Tyner left the band six months later to join Coltrane, along with drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Jimmy Garrison, in what was to become one of the most important jazz ensembles in history.
From 1960 to 1965, he performed with the seminal quartet while also recording his own material, beginning with his 1962 debut, Inception. After leaving The John Coltrane Quartet, Tyner worked as a sideman, most notably for Ike and Tina Turner, and led a few of his own small groups.
In 1967, he released The Real McCoy on the Blue Note label. Five years and three albums later, Sahara put the pianist on the map for its inspired exploration of African sounds and rhythms, earning Tyner a Grammy nomination.
Free musical agent
Since then, he has largely operated as a free musical agent, collaborating often with everyone from Stéphane Grappelli to Béla Fleck, and working as bandleader and composer for several ensembles.
In 1982, Tyner arrived at the Festival for a highly anticipated performance. He returned five years later, taking the stage with saxophonist Sonny Fortune just shy of the 20th anniversary of the death of his friend and mentor, John Coltrane.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, the pianist returned to a few of his former recording labels (Blue Note, Impulse, Milestone) and released several successful albums. In 1994, Tyner paid another visit to the Festival, this time sharing the bill with Elvin Jones and offering audiences a memorable reunion concert.
In 2007, he launched his own recording label, McCoy Tyner Music, in partnership with Blue Note, releasing the live album Quartet that same year. In 2008, the artist followed up with Guitars, an innovative collaboration with guitarists Derek Trucks, John Scofield and Bill Frisell, and banjoist Béla Fleck, among others.
That same year, at the age of 69, the musician marked his eighth appearance at the Festival with three separate concerts. Tyner performed alongside Coltrane's son, Ravi, for one very special evening, and in solo - a rare occurrence for the humble piano master.
In September, 2009, Tyner gave three concerts at L'Astral as part of the Jazz All Year Round series.