McCoy Tyner will be honored in South Orange on Saturday the way all great jazz musicians should be honored: With a celebratory, all-star evening of music. In the 17th show in the annual Giants of Jazz series, Tyner, 75, will perform, after a long list of his friends, collaborators and admirers — including Gary Bartz, Cyrus Chestnut, Antonio Hart, Jimmy Heath, T.S. Monk, Wallace Roney, Claudio Roditi, Renee Rosnes and Steve Turre — have played his compositions.
“He’s one of the piano titans of this music, like Mount Rushmore,” said bassist John Lee, who founded the series and organizes the show.
Lee, a member of Tyner’s band for 2½ years in the early ’80s, describes Tyner as “a great guy, and very passionate about music. I grew up listening to him, and his compositions. He’s a strong writer: He’s created a lot of so-called jazz standards. There’s no need to do any other music that night, he has such a wide repertoire of music that he’s created, and he’s been widely recorded by other jazz musicians.
“And of course, the biggest thing with McCoy is, it’s a very unique style. You can make him out in five seconds, his harmonic concepts.”
Lee calls Tyner “kind of the senior guy, now,” in terms of jazz pianists. “He’s the generation before Chick Corea, and Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett. He was around for the golden era of jazz, and so important.”
Tyner was with John Coltrane from 1960 to 1965, and played on Coltrane’s landmark albums “My Favorite Things” (1961) and “A Love Supreme” (1964). “At the height of John’s career, McCoy is on nearly all of his recordings,” said Lee.
Other performers on at Saturday’s show, which will benefit South Orange’s Free Summer Concerts in the Park series, will include Roy Assaf, Tommy Campbell, Sharel Cassity, Dezron Douglas, Vince Ector, Josh Evans, James Gibbs, Gerry Gibbs, Greg Gisbert, Russell Hall, Billy Harper, Freddie Hendrix, Julian Lee, Mike Lee, Abelita Mateus, Jeb Patton, Evan Sherman and E.J. Strickland.
John Lee said there will be no intermission, just to help make room for all the musicians.
Past Giants of Jazz honorees include Jimmy Heath, Gary Bartz, the late James Moody, Clark Terry, the late Frank Wess, the late Benny Powell, the late Dr. Billy Taylor, the late Frank Foster, the late Marian McPartland, and Slide Hampton.
Tickets to Saturday’s show are $50 or $60 ($40 or $50 for seniors and students); visit SOPACNow.org.