McCoy Tyner Dead At 81

McCoy Tyner, the legendary jazz pianist best known for his work with the John Coltrane Quartet, has died. His nephew Colby “Colb” Tyner, a podcast host and VP of programming for Radio One, shared news of the musician’s death on Twitter and Instagram today. Tyner’s family also posted a statement from his own social accounts. No cause of death has been reported. Tyner was 81.

Born Alfred McCoy Tyner in Philadelphia, he began playing piano at age 13, entertaining the clients at his mother’s hair salon. In 1960, at age 22, he joined the Jazztet, a sextet led by trumpeter Art Farmer and tenor saxophonist Benny Golson. Six months later he had joined the John Coltrane Quartet alongside Coltrane, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones. During Tyner’s tenure with Coltrane, the group progressed from modal jazz (as heard on the iconic My Favorite Things album for Atlantic) to increasingly avant-garde free jazz explorations (including the landmark A Love Supreme on Impulse Records). As the New York Times points out, Coltrane once said of Tyner, “He’s sort of the one who gives me wings and lets me take off from the ground from time to time.”

As Coltrane gravitated toward atonal experiments, Tyner left to focus on his own band, which he had maintained throughout his stint with Coltrane. He spent the late ’60s recording post-bop albums for Blue Note and working as a sideman for acts including Ike and Tina Turner. He went on to release a wealth of albums for a wide range of labels throughout the ensuing decades, becoming a star in his own right during the 1970s. That era, during which he recorded for the Milestone label, also saw him branch out beyond piano, experimenting with the koto on 1972’s Sahara and the celeste and harpsicord on 1975’s Trident. Thanks to his innovative chord voicings and percussive playing style, he is widely praised as one of the most influential jazz pianists of all time.

Here is the statement from Tyner’s family:

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of jazz legend, Alfred “McCoy” Tyner.

McCoy was an inspired musician who dedicated his life to his art, his family and his spirituality.

McCoy Tyner’s music and legacy will continue to inspire fans and future talent for generations to come.

The Tyner family is grateful for your thoughts and prayers during this time, and respectfully requests that any inquiries be directed to [email protected]

Spend some time with Tyner’s work below.

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