McCoy Tyner: A Working Legend of his Generation

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Monday March 04, 2013

From Jazz Police

The McCoy Tyner Quartet With Special Guest Gary Bartz at Hopkins Center for the Arts, March 9th
By: Andrea Carter

Pianist McCoy Tyner is one of the working legends of his generation, an artist whose long and diverse career spans the heyday of bop, the emergence of Coltrane, and the evolution of the complex structures that are hallmarks of modern jazz. His percussive attack, orchestral voicings, and modal harmonies have influenced several generations of musicians, and his ongoing work exemplifies the life of a creative artist constantly seeking to grow and respond. Tyner is now in his 70s but is hardly considering retirement. With bassist Gerald Cannon, drummer Francisco Mela, and special guest and long-time collaborator, saxophonist Gary Bartz, Tyner and his quartet highlight the Twin Cities Jazz Society’s Jazz From J to Z season on March 9th, performing as part of the Hopkins Center for the Arts Music Series.

Born in Philadelphia in 1938, Alfred McCoy Tyner was encouraged by his parents to study music, and started formal piano lessons at thirteen on a neighbor’s piano. Soon he began hosting his own jam sessions and was introduced to African drumming, an influence that continues to infuse his music 50 years later. Young Tyner’s interest in bop was galvanized by early encounters with musicians in the neighborhood, including Bud Powell, Lee Morgan, Archie Shepp, Bobby Timmons, and Reggie Workman. Other early influences included classical composers such as Stravinsky and Debussy, as well as Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, and Thelonious Monk, whose percussive style would leave an indelible imprint on Tyner. As a teenager, Tyner played regularly at the Red Rooster, where, at age 17, he first worked with fellow Philadelphian John Coltrane. Sax virtuoso Benny Golson first brought the young pianist to New York to join forces with Art Farmer in the first edition of the Jazztet. In 1960, when Coltrane left Miles Davis to form his own band, he hired Tyner and formed what many believe to be one of the greatest quartets in jazz, with Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones.

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