It seems that when jazz pianist McCoy Tyner is mentioned, it’s invariably in the context of his work with John Coltrane. This is fine, as far as it goes, and quite appropriate, since the music (and history) he made as part of the “Classic Quartet” is enough to ensure his immortality in jazz circles. However, a compelling case could be made that he has pound for pound been the most prolific, consistently brilliant, and straight-out important jazz musician of the last half-century.
Let’s review the file. While employed by Coltrane (and make no mistake, far from being “merely” the pianist, he was also contributing compositions, like “Aisha” from Ole Coltrane), he simultaneously was making remarkable albums under his own name. That he was also appearing with compatriots (like Wayne Shorter) and appearing on masterpiece after masterpiece for the Blue Note label would seal the deal. But this all occurred in the 1960s. Not enough people know that Tyner continued to make astonishing music into the ’70s and has not slowed down since. Indeed, his streak of albums starting with Expansions from the late ’60s, through the mid-to-late ’70s with Trident, represents a body of work that, by itself, can stand alongside anything anyone has ever done (in any genre, by the way).