McCoy Tyner

To say that Mr. Tyner "tickles the ivories" would be akin to suggesting that his old bandmate John Coltrane "toodles the horn a bit." Not just a massive understatement, in other words, but an outright mischaracterization. In fact, Tyner pounds the keys with a savage precision, particularly with his explosive left hand, creating a trademark sound among the jazz cognoscenti.

Tyner was born 68 years ago in Philadelphia. Encouraged by his mother, he took up piano at age thirteen and distinguished himself quickly. At the tender age of seventeen he began playing with Coltrane, eventually serving as his pianist on the 1960 classic My Favorite Things. For five years he remained a staple of the revered Coltrane's Quartet, gaining international renown for his inimitable style. Although rooted in the blues, Tyner's style stressed his instrument's untapped percussive qualities and employed unorthodox harmonic shifts.

In 1965 Tyner then left to pursue his own path as a composer and bandleader. He wound up releasing more than 70 albums and winning a quartet of Grammys. These records include the revered The Real McCoy (1967) and Sahara (1972), a groundbreaking disc that incorporated the sounds and rhythms of Africa. He has since recorded albums that range from renditions of Burt Bacharach's pop compositions to a Latin album featuring the bass work of the legendary Stanley Clarke. Although pushing 70, Tyner shows no signs of slowing down. In 2002 the National Endowment for the Arts named him a "Jazz Master," a designation he had already unofficially earned from his fellow musicians years ago.

For his performance at the Gusman, Tyner will be playing with his current trio, which includes bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Eric Kamau Gravatt. The stripped-down arrangement should suit his fans just fine, offering a showcase for his transcendent stylings.

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Steven Almond

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