Alfred ‘McCoy’ Tyner has died at the age of 81. The iconic jazz musician rose to prominence as a member of John Coltrane‘s quartet and became one of the most influential pianists in the genre’s history. News of his passing was shared on his social media accounts, though no further details were provided.
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of jazz legend, Alfred ‘McCoy’ Tyner. McCoy was an inspired musician who devoted his life to his art, his family, and his spirituality,” the post said. Read the entire statement below:
Tyner began playing piano in his early teens and found himself in the company of Coltrane while he still lived at his mother’s house in 1955. Coltrane recorded one of Tyner’s compositions just a few years later in 1958 before McCoy joined up with The Jazztet, a six-piece outfit led by Benny Golson and Art Farmer. Then, in 1961, at the ripe age of 21, Tyner officially joined Coltrane’s quartet. He performed with the group for five years, playing on records like My Favorite Things and A Love Supreme. Throughout this time with Coltrane, Tyner trademarked a uniquely percussive style from which many have drawn inspiration through the years.
Tyner’s style influenced musicians of all kinds—not even just pianists. As Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir explains in the 2014 Netflix documentary, The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir,
We had fairly defined roles. I was the rhythm guitarist, Jerry was the lead guitarist. I was there to supply chords and rhythm for Jerry to play over the top of. But the traditional role of a rock and roll rhythm guitarist is somewhat limited. I got to where I was feeling kinda hemmed in with what I was doing. At the same time, I was listening to a lot of jazz and stuff like that. I was listening to the piano players…Particularly McCoy Tyner, the way he chorded underneath John Coltrane, supplying John Coltrane with all kinds of harmonic counterpoint to what he was doing. That appealed to me greatly, and so I started trying to learn to do that on the guitar for Jerry.
Following his time with Coltrane, McCoy would go on to lead bands of his own and perform with other well-known musicians such as Sonny Rollins, Ron Carter, and Stanley Clarke. Watch his performance at Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, RI on August 15th, 1998 below:
McCoy Tyner & His Trio – Newport Jazz Festival – 8/15/98 [Full Show]
[Video: Jazz on MV]
[H/T The New York Times]