Eulogy for McCoy Tyner

Posted By: Floris On:

From a post I did on Facebook, posted here for people who are interested.

I have never written one of these on Facebook, and now I feel that the passing of McCoy Tyner is an event that calls for one.

McCoy Tyner was one of those legendary musicians of whom it is rare that they were among the living. As a pianist, hearing his playing with the John Coltrane Quartet and on his own early records changed my life completely.

I have often considered the situation that McCoy must have found himself in when Coltrane hired him for his band. The legends around how loud Elvin Jones would play behind Coltrane are well-known, and the rhythmic complexity that he presented was, as far as I know, modern for the time. Then, the harmonic novelties that Coltrane presented to him add up to it all. Obviously, the band didn’t start out in the way that it ended, but nevertheless, the pure genius of McCoy’s ways to deal with these circumstances that were so musically extreme is baffling on a cerebral level. In my own search for an authentic and “new” approach to music, this particular aspect of McCoy is a source of vast inspiration that I always turn to.

Another aspect about McCoy that is such a source of joy to my life is the intense energy with which his music is drenched.
There have been many moments when I was listening to McCoy that made me feel something that I can only label as a unique spiritually transformative experience. As a musician, and in general, these moments give me purpose in life.

One of the greatest lessons that I have learned from McCoy came from reading an interview with him about the Coltrane band. In my mind, till then, the band was the perfect 1+1+1+1=5 example. All the band members seemed to have distinct unique musical personalities that together, fit perfectly into a pure whole. I was therefore completely surprised when I read McCoy saying that all four members of the band had quite different musical opinions, and that all four members where forced to let some of their opinions go to serve the group as a whole. The musical result speaks for itself. This proves to me that a true democracy of ideas within a band is the way to create transcendental music.

I will end this text with an anecdote. Some moments in life make you believe in the predetermination of your path, and this was one of them for me!

Two years ago I was playing at North Sea Jazz with the CvA big band, and it happened to be the case that McCoy was playing that evening on one of the big stages. Three of my friends and I snuck in behind the stage to watch him play from 3 or 4 meters distance, and after he had finished he walked towards us. We were basically unable to say a thing.

Hilde Slinger, one of the most important people in the Dutch jazz scene was also there and called: “McCoy! These are young musicians. Do you have some advice for them?”
He then told us to never copy anyone else.
“-and if you find something, stick to it!”
He then proceeded to shake everyones hand.
Except mine.

I was also the only pianist there, and I was guilty of copying him. I think he must have known.

I then watched him walk to his limousine, just trying to grasp how amazing it was that I had seen this man in real life.

I recently discovered a research on the music of McCoy Tyner by Sami Linna that is extremely in-depth. Musicians, check it out!

I hope that you will enjoy his music as much as I do if this text is your first encounter with McCoy Tyner. May his legacy live on!

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