Dena Reflects on McCoy Tyner

McCoy Tyner is truly one of the most influential jazz pianists of our time and will be forever! I first met McCoy in New York City in the early 2000s when my quartet opened for one of his solo concerts at one of the Jack Kleinsinger Presents Highlights in Jazz concerts at the Pace University Theater. Of course, Mr. Tyner did not need anyone to warm up the stage as when he started to play we all thought he was going to pound that piano into pieces… haha!! He was amazing!! One hour of some of the deepest jazz piano playing I’d ever seen in my life. After the concert he shook my hand and complimented me on my set. He was a true gentleman. I left thrilled and very inspired. I’d go to see him whenever he played in NYC, which was usually the Blue Note. He always remembered me by name, too.The next opportunity I had of meeting him was at the Stanford Jazz Workshop about 5-6 years later. He gave a masterclass for jazz pianists. I was there teaching young jazz vocalists and brought them to this masterclass instead of teaching my own class. I’m glad I did. He talked about the importance of lyrics and how they can give you ideas for tempo, mood, and coloring whatever song you’re playing. The example he gave regarding this was «Alone Together.» He said: «I don’t know why everybody plays this song so fast. If you read the lyrics, you’ll see why!» A big lesson for me as I had just played the tune for him in the class… much too fast… trying to show off! I will love him forever…

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