By Dave Pehling

NEW YORK (CBS SF) — Jazz piano giant McCoy Tyner, who made his name as a member of saxophonist John Coltrane’s classic quartet during the 1960s, has died at age 81, according to social media posts.

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The pianists Facebook and Instagram accounts shared the news Friday morning.

“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of jazz legend, Alfred “McCoy” Tyner,” the post read. “McCoy was an inspired musician who devoted 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.”

No details as to the cause of death were included in the announcement.

Tyner was born December 11, 1938 in Philadelphia, and began studying piano as a teen. He would meet Coltrane during the 1950s and would join his quartet that was filled out by volcanic drummer Elvin Jones and original bass player Steve Davis in 1960.

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Over the course of the next five years, Tyner would serve as the saxophonist’s melodic foil, playing on such landmark albums as My Favorite Things for Atlantic Records — one of Coltrane’s last recordings before moving to Impulse! Records — Live! at the Village Vanguard, Ballads, Impressions and A Love Supreme. His thunderous block chords and harmonically inventive, percussive solo style would help shape the piano playing of legions of keyboard disciples who carefully studied those groundbreaking albums. During his stint with what would become known as Coltrane’s “classic quartet,” the pianist also started his solo career as a bandleader, releasing a number of his own albums for Impulse! in addition to recording as a sideman for artists including saxophonists Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter, guitarist Grant Green and trumpet player Freddie Hubbard.

After leaving Coltrane’s group in 1965, Tyner would continue his career as a leader, recording a string of albums for Blue Note before beginning a long and fruitful relationship with the Milestone imprint in 1972. Unlike many of his contemporaries who would experiment with electric instruments, Tyner remained steadfast in his commitment to acoustic piano and the style of spiritually minded, modal post-bop jazz that he helped codify during the ’60s.

Tyner also became something of a fixture in the Bay Area, for many years during the 1990s and 2000s performing extended two-week residencies at noted Oakland jazz club Yoshi’s where he would showcase his current trio or quartet as well as performing with special all-star Latin groups and his big band. Tyner was also a regular performer with SFJAZZ, appearing multiple times at the organization’s annual jazz festivals and other SFJAZZ produced concerts. Two of Tyner’s later live albums were recorded during Bay Area performances — Quartet captured a 2006 performance at Yoshi’s with saxophonist Joe Lovano, Christian McBride, and Jeff “Tain” Watts, while his final album Solo: Live from San Francisco in 2009 was tracked during a solo piano set for SFJAZZ at San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre.


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