McCoy Tyner Joins Forces with Savion Glover

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Jazz pianist McCoy Tyner.

Jazz pianist McCoy Tyner. G. Martin hide caption

toggle caption G. Martin

Ed Gordon speaks with celebrated jazz pianist McCoy Tyner about his latest collaboration with acclaimed tap dancer Savion Glover in a series of performances in New York City.

(Soundbite of piano)

ED GORDON, host:

The piano is a percussive instrument and so are shoes, especially when they're worn by the brilliant tap dancer Savion Glover.

(Soundbite of tap dancing)

GORDON: Beginning this evening, at New York's Blue Note Club, Glover will be teaming with the master Jazz Pianist McCoy Tyner. Tyner may be best known for his work with the John Coltrane Quartet. So it's interesting to find him now collaborating with the young man who's been called the Coltrane of hoofing.

Mr. SAVION GLOVER (Tap Dancer): Hoofing, hoofing, hoofing, hoofing.

(Soundbite of tap dancing)

GORDON: McCoy Tyner, welcome to the program.

Mr. McCOY TYNER (Jazz Pianist): Well, thank you very much.

GORDON: Before we get into what is a unique collaboration that you're having with Savion Glover, I want to talk a little bit about your career. And we should note that you were on one of the most famous jazz LP's of all time, and that's Coltrane's My Favorite Things. Talk to me about your relationship with John Coltrane.

Mr. TYNER: Well, I met John when I was a teenager. And the relationship just grew. He was like a big brother to me, you know. And then when he decided he wanted to get his own group, he called me and says, hey look, would you like to join - I'm going to form my own band. And I said, well I'd love to do that, that would be great, you know. So that's how that started.

(Soundbite of Coltrane's "My Favorite Things")

Mr. TYNER: He was like a scientist playing saxophone, you know, he was always looking for that next step, and looking forward to the next step and searching for it. So that's what kept it so interesting all the years I was with him. I learned so much because he was learning a lot by exploring different avenues of music. So I had a great time.

(Soundbite of Coltrane's "My Favorite Things")

GORDON: Let me ask you this: one of the interesting things too that I read about you, is that - and I'm wondering where this came from, you were very single minded in your idea of what you wanted your sound to be. Most musicians at some time in their career - obviously, the beginning - would copy, mimic their heroes. You chose and really went out of your way to make sure that you didn't sound like the men that you admired.

Mr. TYNER: I've always felt that I could never be anybody else, that I had to explore my own avenues and see what I could come up with. That's the path I took, you know, and I think it was worth it.

(Soundbite of Coltrane's "My Favorite Things")

GORDON: The thing that most people write about you is explosiveness, this raw power. How would you describe your musicianship?

Mr. TYNER: Well, I don't know. I think I have different - explore different levels dynamically. But I guess maybe at times it sounds like I'm exploding.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TYNER: Not doing it deliberately, but - well, maybe I am. But I try to use dynamics to make it as musical as possible, rather than just creating a lot of sound.

(Soundbite of Coltrane's "My Favorite Things")

(Soundbite of tap dancing)

GORDON: Let's talk about this collaboration with Savion Glover that you're going to have here in New York City. Talk to me, A) about how this came about and what you like most about it.

Mr. TYNER: Savion is fantastic, you know? Jazz and tap go hand and hand. And having him join me, sometimes he would sit in, you know, with me. We see each other quite a bit - whenever we can, I guess, you know. I look around, say Savion, come on up and do a few taps, you know. And it just works beautifully. So - well, hopefully in the future - it's like we're doing this concert coming up - that we'll have more things to do together. Because I enjoyed it. It's synonymous to jazz, I think.

(Soundbite of tap dancing)

GORDON: Does it go both ways, or do you typically lead and he follows, or vice versa, or can it go either way?

Mr. TYNER: Well, what it is, we start something, an idea, and he'll pick up. He listens like crazy. I mean, he's - you know, he's just listening so intently, it's unbelievable. And if I play something rhythmically, he'll pick it up with his feet. And then if I hear him doing something, then I'll listen to him. We listen to each other. But he does listen to me, you know, he's a very respectful person. You know, he doesn't try to dominate the stage. I mean, we work together. And I'm enjoying it like crazy.

GORDON: So in a great sense, even though his instrument are obviously the tap shoes, not the conventional instrument, this is much like sitting in with, you know, like some of your boys in a jam session.

Mr. TYNER: Yeah, exactly, that's what it is. He's definitely improvising with his instrument, which is his feet. And he's doing such a great job and it's just nice to see that concept be revived, I think. I think he's on to something new, you know, his concept of it is great. So, we have a lot of fun.

(Soundbite of piano and tap dancing)

GORDON: Pianist McCoy Tyner, he and tap dancer Savion Glover will be performing through May 13, at the Blue Note in New York City.

(Soundbite of music)

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