Mayor Michael Nutter and the City of Philadelphia invited jazz pianist and composer MyCoy Tyner back to his roots for an official recognition of his contribution to the city’s jazz legacy last year. It was a wonderful way to kick off Jazz Appreciation Month in Philadelphia.
Born in 1938, Tyner grew up in West Philadelphia, played for John Coltrane’s historic quartet from 1960 to 1965, and then moved on to place his own voluminous stamp on the music, with ever-changing compositions, arrangements, albums and performances.
During his 2015 trip to Philadelphia, Tyner and his son Nurudeen stopped at WRTI, along with the city’s Chief Cultural Officer Helen Haynes. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston had a chance to speak with them.
Some musicians who've reached the pinnacle of mastery have a quiet, humble side, as WRTI's Meridee Duddleston finds out.
MD: After a long career yielding four Grammys and a mountain of albums, jazz pianist McCoy Tyner is recognized around the world. But on a visit to WRTI, the renowned performer and composer - who's inspired a generation of well-known artists - says that given just one musical choice, he’d listen to himself. Why? You might be surprised...
MT: I can learn something, too. Give me a break!
MD: Tyner grew up in West Philadelphia, and as a teenager made some significant connections here. Two can be traced a musical family with a piano living on Van Pelt Street in the mid '50s. Tyner’s future wife, Aisha, was part of that family. John Coltrane visited the Van Pelt Street home, too, and befriended the young piano player. Later on, Tyner joined Coltrane’s quartet and was part of the famous recording, My Favorite Things. In the mid '60s, he then struck out to find his own direction - one that explored African, Asian and Latin influences, spirituality, a percussive touch, and a blues-based style.
Now in his 70s, Tyner evidences a mature curiosity, still mindful of what he doesn’t know.
MT: We keep learning as we go along in this life. And that’s all we can do. We can practice. We can expose ourselves to a lot of things, sound-wise - beautiful melodies, orchestras, bands, vocalists.
MD: Because, as this jazz great believes...
MT: If I keep my mind open, I can learn more. The thing is to have the courage to admit what you don’t know.