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The COMPASS Group > October 2011

McCoy Tyner

2011 Taichung Jazz Festival Close-Up: 4-time Grammy winner, jazz legend McCoy Tyner continues impressing

By Douglas Habecker
Translated by Angel Pu

It's not an ordinary opportunity when one gets the chance to enjoy free, close-up performances from a man whose awards, credits and achievements would alone easily fill up a large part of this page. However, that is exactly what participants at the 2011 Taichung Jazz Festival will get when McCoy Tyner comes to town.

The word "legendary" gets thrown around easily these days, but that it is an apt description of Tyner, a four-time Grammy Award winning jazz pianist (also described as "jazz royalty") who has been directly credited with being one of modern jazz's most influential forces since the 1960s, largely because of his personal piano stylings. These have been showcased in the nearly 80 albums he has released and recognized in a variety of ways, including being awarded Jazz Master from the National Endowment of the Arts in 2002, four consecutive "Pianist of the Year" awards (1974-77) from Down Beat Critic's Poll and, most recently, a 2008 Presidential Merit Award from the Grammy Foundation.

The Philadelphia native, born in 1938, gained initial recognition in 1960 as the first pianist in Benny Golson and Art Farmer's famed Jazztet. In that same year, he began a close association with another jazz great, John Coltrane, and from 1961 to 1965 was a member of The Coltrane Quartet, which toured extensively and released multiple jazz classic albums. It was also during this time that the jazz world took note of Tyner's emerging piano style, which would eventually turn him into one of the 20th century's most influential jazz pianists. Leaving the quartet, he then struck out on his own to begin a lengthy, accomplished journey that has seen a vast array of individual and collaborative efforts as a performer, recording artist, bandleader and composer.

Tyner's piano style--often compared to Coltrane's maximalist style of saxophone--has several distinctive characteristics, described in his biography as "blues-based piano style, replete with sophisticated chords and an explosively percussive left hand", which he typically raises unusually high for his attacks on the keyboard, together with right-hand solos recognizable for "detached, staccato, quality". Over the years, his music has also been significantly influenced by West Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean as his exotic repetoir of instruments has grown to include the flute, percussion, harpsichord, celeste and even the Japanese koto stringed instrument.

Although currently the only surviving member of The Coltrane Quartet, Tyner's energetic career continues unabated, as he performs, records and serves as a source of inspiration and support to new generations of jazz artists.


Chris Potter
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