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Crate Digging: McCoy Tyner's never-before-heard set at the Village Vanguard

McCoy Tyner (left) with host Christian McBride from their first concert.
Courtesy of Christian McBride
McCoy Tyner (left) with host Christian McBride from their first concert.

Every once in a while, an innovator comes along that dramatically changes the music forever. McCoy Tyner is in that category.

As a pianist and composer, he created a style wholly his own, from his rapid-fire articulations to his distinct harmonic language – especially the use of ringing intervals in his left hand, often perfect fourths or fifths. His chord voicings helped define the urgent intrigue of the sound we often call "modal jazz."

He may be best known for his inimitable contribution to the classic John Coltrane Quartet, which also featured bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones. But traces of McCoy's genius were there before he met Trane. And the proof of his truth can also be found in his discography after Trane.

In this episode of Jazz Night in America our host, Christian McBride, guides us through some of those recordings as part of his own personal crate-digging journey. He dusts off vinyl from his youth, spanning multiple eras of Tyner's career — some featuring choirs and big bands, and others with strings and woodwinds. And we'll hear the stories behind some of those gems when McBride candidly talks with McCoy's son, Deen Tyner.

This episode of "Crate Digging" highlights one particular recorded document: McCoy Tyner performing at The Village Vanguard in 1997, on what would've been John Coltrane's 71st birthday. That night of music was so electric that it was actually made into a commercial release on Impulse. But for this program, we unearth the gems that didn't make the album – bringing you music that has never been heard outside the club on that evening.

Musicians:

McCoy Tyner, piano; George Mraz, bass; Al Foster, drums

Set List:

  • "Mr P.C." (John Coltrane)
  •  Improvised blues "Port au Blues"  (McCoy Tyner)
  • "The Promise" (Coltrane)
  • "I Should Care" (Axel Stordahl and Paul Weston)
  • "Pursuance" (Coltrane) 
  • Credits:

    Writer and Producer: Sarah Geledi; Senior Producer: Alex Ariff; Host: Christian McBride; Recording Engineer: Jim Anderson; Digitization: Ulrike Schwarz; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Senior Director of NPR Music: Keith Jenkins; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand.

    Special thanks to Becca Pulliam.

    Copyright 2022 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.