Happy Birthday McCoy Tyner

December 11, 1938

A tribute to the influential pianist

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

Tyner began playing piano at 13 and worked locally in Philadelphia.

The pianist made his recording debut with trombonist Curtis Fuller in 1959, gaining attention as a member of the Jazztet for six months in 1960.

Tyner became famous in the jazz world for his work as a key member of the classic John Coltrane Quartet during 1960-65, becoming an influential force in modal music and helping to change the way that the piano is played in jazz.

McCoy Tyner also led a few sessions of his own during that period before leaving Coltrane at the end of 1965 due to the change in the saxophonist’s music.

Tyner became an important bandleader, recording for Blue Note during 1967-70 and making a series of classic albums for Milestone in the 1970s.

After leading larger groups in the 1970s, Tyner primarily headed a trio in addition to appearing with all-star groups during the next few decades, still being occasionally active as he celebrated his 80th birthday.

Here he is playing John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” at a concert in Hamburg, Germany.

-Scott Yanow