Tyner grew up in Philadelphia, where Bud Powell and Richie Powell were neighbors. As a teenager he gigged locally and met John Coltrane. He made his recording debut with the Art Farmer-Benny Golson Jazztet, but after six months left the group to join Coltrane in what (with bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones) would become the classic quartet. Few other pianists of the period had both the power and the complementary open-minded style to inspire Coltrane, but Tyner was never overshadowed by the innovative saxophonist. During the Coltrane years (1960-1965), the pianist also led his own record dates for Impulse.
After leaving Coltrane, Tyner struggled for a period, working as a sideman (with Ike and Tina Turner, amazingly) and leading his own small groups; his recordings were consistently stimulating even during the lean years. After he signed with Milestone in 1972, Tyner began to finally be recognized as one of the greats, and he has never been short of work since. Although there have been occasional departures (such as a 1978 all-star quartet tour with Sonny Rollins and duo recordings with Stephane Grappelli), Tyner has mostly played with his own groups since the '70s, which have ranged from a quartet with Azar Lawrence and a big band to his trio. In the '80s and '90s, Tyner did the rounds of labels (his old homes Blue Note and Impulse! as well as Verve, Enja, and Milestone) before settling in with Telarc in the late '90s and releasing a fine series of albums including 2000's Jazz Roots: McCoy Tyner Honors Jazz Piano Legends of the 20th Century and 2004's Illuminations. In 2007, Tyner returned with the studio album McCoy Tyner Quartet featuring saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts. ~ Scott Yanow