Resisting Pressures To Whitewash His Music, He Influenced Jazz Piano With Afro-Beats

mccoy tyner sitting down playing a piano
L. Graciella Maiolatesi
January 9, 2022

McCoy Tyner, pianist in John Coltrane’s groundbreaking 1960s quartet, changed the game when it came to jazz piano! Coltrane himself credited his freedom to explore within his music to Tyner’s sound.

The two were colleagues and friends, so why did Tyner quit Coltrane’s band at the height of their success?

Both musicians were influential to jazz: Coltrane brought those sultry notes on his saxophone, while Tyner blended African-inspired rhythms with traditional jazz piano, bringing a unique sound that forever changed the form. 

But Tyner soon felt that Coltrane’s music was getting noisy and giving into mainstream demands, so he stepped away from the band and from fame. Would he succeed on his own?

Tyner struggled for a few years, but in 1967 he released his album “The Real McCoy,” launching his career! Over time, Tyner received five Grammys and in 2002 was named a “National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master,” one of the highest musical honors in the United States.

Today, there are constant pressures to capitalize off of our talents by conforming to the mainstream – which usually means whiteness. Tyner is a great example of knowing when to walk away before being consumed by toxic mainstream pressures. 

Like Tyner, we must self-determine what brings us joy – and chase that dream despite the risks!

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