McCoy Tyner was born Alfred McCoy Tyner on December 11, 1938 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the oldest of three children. He was encouraged to study piano by his mother. He began studying the piano at age 13 and within two years, music had become the focal point in his life. His early influences included Bud Powell, a Philadelphia neighbor.
Tyner’s first main exposure came with Benny Golson in 1960, being the first pianist in the Golson/Art Farmer legendary Jazztet. After departing the Jazztet, Tyner replaced Steve Kuhn in John Coltrane’s group the same year during its extended run at the Jazz Gallery. Coltrane had featured one of the McCoy’s compositions, “The Believer”, as early as 1958. He appeared on the saxophonist’s popular recording of “My Favorite Things” for Atlantic Records followed by Live at the Village Vanguard, Ballads, Live at Birdland, Crescent, A Love Supreme and The John Coltrane Quartet Plays on Impulse.
As a leader, Tyner recorded a number of highly influential albums in his own right during and post Coltrane tenure and as a sideman for many of the projects of Impulse and Blue Note. But by 1966, Tyner was rehearsing with a new trio and would now fully embark on his career as a leader. At Blue Note a string of albums were released such as The Real McCoy, Tender Moments, Sahara, Fly With The Wind and Time For Tyner, incorporating different configurations and instruments were utilized like flute, koto, string orchestra, percussion, and harpsichord along with African and Asian elements.
He currently records and has enlisted the talents of Avery Sharpe, Charnett Moffett, Eric Harland, Gerald Cannon, Gary Bartz, Eric Kamau Gravatt. Tyner still records and tours regularly though his schedule has been pared down due to his age.
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Enrico Pieranunzi was born December 5, 1949 in Rome, Italy. When he was only five and a half years old he began studying piano. At the same time his father, a guitarist, started introducing him to the wonders and challenges of jazz improvisation as well. From then on Enrico followed a double road in music developing his jazz style while studying classical piano.
At 19, Enrico began his professional career in Italy and since then he has worked with an abundance of bands, both Italian units and groups led by Americans. His wide-ranging experiences include collaborations with jazz luminaries such as Johnny Griffin, Chet Baker, Art Farmer, Lee Konitz, Jim Hall, Johnny Griffin, Phil Woods, Charlie Haden, Frank Rosolino, Mads Vinding, Lee Konitz, Billy Higgins and Kenny Clarke among others.
Since 1975 Pieranunzi has led his own groups, mostly trios, with which he has played clubs and festivals all over Europe and released his first album that year. He has performed as unaccompanied pianist and still does to this very day. As an educator he has taught both in the jazz and classical fields and is currently full professor of piano at the “Conservatorio di Musica” in Frosinone.
Pianist Enrico Pieranunzi is a very original musician and a talented composer, able to travel the high road with his own ideas and remarkable musical sensitivity. Voted “Musician of the Year” in the “Musica Jazz” critic’s poll in 1989, twice the recipient of the Djangodor Award “Best Jazz Musician” in 1992 & ’97 and the 2003 Django d’Or in Italy. In 2006 he started the Trans Alpine Jazz Project and since the beginning of his career has amassed a catalogue of fifty-one recordings as a leader. He continues to perform, tour and record.
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Wynton Kelly was born December 2, 1931 in Jamaica but grew up in Brooklyn, New York from age four when his parents emigrated to the United States. He started playing piano professionally as a teenager in R&B groups led by Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, then went on to work with Lee Abrams, Cecil Payne, Dinah Washington and Dizzy Gillespie.
Kelly recorded fourteen titles for Blue Note with a trio in 1951, worked with Dinah Washington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Lester Young during 1951-1952 followed by serving in the military. After his discharge he again worked with Washington, Charles Mingus and the Dizzy Gillespie big band but he would be most famous for his stint in the late 50s with the Miles Davis Quintet from 1959 – 63 and was part of the seminal “Kind Of Blue” replacing Bill Evans on “Freddie Freeloader”, along with notable albums “At The Blackhawk” and “Someday My Prince Will Come”. He would later replace Tommy Flanagan on the “Naima” on Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”.
Wynton left Davis in 1963 and took the rest of the rhythm section bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb with him to form his trio. He recorded as a leader for Blue Note, Riverside, Vee-Jay, Verve and Milestone.
Pianist Wynton Kelly passed away on April 12, 1971 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada of an epileptic seizure. At 39, he was one of the most prolific sideman pianists of his era, performing on scores of jazz albums and a superb accompanist and distinctive soloist who would decades later influence a new generation of jazz pianists.
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Teddy Wilson was born Theodore Shaw Wilson in Austin, Texas on November 24, 1912. By his teenage years he was enamored with the music of Bix Beiderbecke and King Oliver and decided to make a living playing jazz. He studied piano and violin at Tuskegee Institute where his father was head of the English Department and his mother was chief librarian. A year later he joined Speed Webb’s band as one of seven arrangers, re-orchestrating in close harmony the songs of Beiderbecke and Hodges. He went on to join Louis Armstrong, understudying Earl Hines in his Grand Terrace Café Orchestra, and Benny Carter’s Chocolate Dandies.
By 1935 Teddy joined Benny Goodman trio with Gene Krupa becoming the first black musician to perform in public with a previously all-white jazz group. With the help of jazz producer John Hammond, Wilson got a contract with Brunswick Records in 1935 and started recording hot swing arrangements of popular songs of the day with the growing jukebox trade in mind. He recorded fifty hit records with various singers including Lena Horne, Helen Ward and Ella Fitzgerald while also participating in sessions with Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, Charlie Shavers, Red Norvo, Buck Clayton and Ben Webster.
Wilson formed his own short-lived big band in 1939 and then led a sextet at Café Society from 1940 to 1944. In the 1950s he taught at the Julliard School, appeared as himself in the motion picture The Benny Goodman Story, and during the next two decades lived quietly in suburban New Jersey. Pianist and arranger Teddy Wilson passed away on July 31, 1986 in New Britain, Connecticut at age 73.
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Kenny Werner was born on November 19, 1951 in Brooklyn, New York and by four was a member of a song and dance group. He started piano lessons at seven and by the time he turned 11, he recorded a single with a fifteen-piece orchestra and appeared on television playing stride piano. He attended the Manhattan School of Music as a concert piano major and later transferred to the Berklee School of Music.
Upon graduation he travelled working in Brazil and Bermuda before returning to New York where he formed a trio with drummer Gary Berkowitz and bassist Alex Peglise. In 1977 he recorded first LP that featured of the music of Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington, James P. Johnson and George Gershwin and later that year with Charles Mingus on “Something Like A Bird”.
By the early 80s he toured extensively and recorded with Archie Shepp, recorded his own solo album of original compositions titled “Beyond the Forest of Mirkwood”, followed by a recording of the sounds heard coming from his Brooklyn-based studio – a hotbed of late-night jam sessions, titling the record after his address, 298 Bridge Street. In 1984 he joined the Mel Lewis Orchestra, began performing more in Europe and New York City as a leader and in duos with such notables as Rufus Reid, Ray Drummond, Jaki Byard also doing stints in the groups of Eddie Gomez, Tom Harrell, Joe Lovano and many others.
Since 1989 he has served as pianist, arranger and musical director for the noted film, television and Broadway star, Betty Buckley, has performed and recorded with Toots Thielemans mostly in duo settings but in trio with Oscar Castro-Neves and quartet with Airto Moreira. He has been nominated for a Grammy, has received performance grants from the NEA, a Guggenheim Fellowship Award for the 2010 release “No Beginning No End”, was commissioned to compose and conduct a memorial piece for Duke Ellington, and has been honored with the distinguished Composer award.
Kenny has a catalogue of twenty albums and another six as a sideman composer chops have had him writing compositions for the Mel Lewis Orchestra, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Cologne Radio Jazz Orchestra, the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra, the Metropole Orchestra and the Umo Jazz Orchestra and most recently has joined Quincy Jones. He is a published author of “Effortless Mastery” that features the physical, technical, psychological and spiritual aspects of being an artist and this publication has garnered him requests as a teacher and clinician from universities around the world, while maintaining an Artist-in-Residence at New York University.