Here’s a fascinating glimpse into the world of McCoy Tyner’s use of Quartal harmony…(get comfortable!)

This thesis examines the role of dominant seventh chords in jazz pianist McCoy Tyner’s modal jazz
expression. To my knowledge, Tyner’s playing has not been researched from this point of view, even
though Tyner has talked about his way of using dominant chords being one of the characteristics of his
To discover the different ways that McCoy Tyner utilizes dominant seventh chords, I transcribed and
analyzed a considerable number of his solos, as well as accompaniment and compositions.3 In this thesis, I
present examples from the transcribed material, arranged in a way that illustrates the connections
between Tyner’s early style and his expression in the later part of the 1960s. Because Tyner is one of the
key musicians in the development of modal jazz, the characteristics of the style itself and the relationship
between harmony and melody are discussed. Consequently, a secondary aspect of this work is to clarify the
definition of modal jazz itself in relation to what tonal jazz is.
Tyner kept evolving and adding new features into his playing continuously throughout the 1960s, so I
introduce different aspects of his playing in an approximate chronological order in which they become
prominent in his recorded output. In order for the reader to be able to observe entire musical statements,
several complete solos are analyzed. Most of the examples are from the recordings of the John Coltrane
Quartet and also include remarks on the saxophonist’s style. The reason for this is that Tyner’s playing style
developed in close contact with Coltrane.
The organization of the thesis is as follows: the analytical strategies and the artistic research process
leading to my findings are explained in chapter 2, including an overview of the existing research on McCoy
Tyner. The following chapters (3–10) deal with different aspects of McCoy Tyner’s style.
I start by going through Tyner’s typical left-hand voicings for functional chord progressions in major
and minor keys, as well as the 12-bar blues form, as found on his early recordings. The transcriptions
presented in chapter 3 are referred to later on in the text when similar chord voicings and melodic lines are
found in modal contexts. Chapter 4 focuses on the modal vamps in the early recordings of the John
Coltrane Quartet. The compositions and arrangements are inspected in relation to what the quartet used
as a starting point for each performance. Examples of Tyner’s accompaniment as well as solo lines are
presented, analyzed, and put into perspective in relation to John Coltrane’s expression. Again, the
transcriptions in this chapter are used for reference and comparison in the following chapters. Chapter 5
shows McCoy Tyner moving towards more open sounds with the use of chord voicings based on the
interval of fourth. Broadened harmonic palette immediately paves the way to increased freedom and new
ideas appearing in Tyner’s melodic lines. In chapter 6, examples of Tyner experimenting with adding
movement over static solo sections are presented. The selected performances were all recorded live at the
Village Vanguard in November 1961. “Impressions” and “Brasilia” feature melodic lines implying dominant
chords flowing from one to another, while “Spiritual” combines functional chord progressions with modal
sounds. Chapter 7 illustrates the increased variety in Tyner’s chord voicings for dominant seventh chords
during the mid-1960s, while the following chapter 8 introduces sounds achieved by combining static
melodic material in the right hand with independent dominant chord movement in the left hand. In chapter
9, all of the techniques discussed in the previous chapters come together in an extended solo example from
“My Favorite Things” recorded live at the Half Note club in 1965. A few examples demonstrating Tyner’s
revised melodic language from the late 1960s are included. Chapter 10 looks at Tyner’s compositions and
arrangements, drawing together different directions in which his dominant voicings typically move.
In the final chapter 11, I bring together the findings from the earlier chapters and try to see what it all
means in relation to McCoy Tyner’s style and the context of modal jazz.
In my work, the analysis of the musical examples is written as much into the chord symbols and
notation as it is written into the text. My aim is to make the text and the notation alternate seamlessly and
complement each other. For this reason, I do not use numbering for the musical examples as titles and
numbers would interrupt the flow from one to another. The musical examples include notated parts by
several other musicians in addition to McCoy Tyner. To allow an easy access to the individual examples, an
alphabetical index by musician is included on page 269.

This thesis, as a part of an artistic doctoral degree, was preceded by four doctoral concerts and an album
release. The artistic work addressed the problem of how to create melodic-harmonic movement in an
improvised manner, with only a few predetermined chord progressions, if any, to guide the way. In jazz
expression, this approach to improvisation was thoroughly explored during the 1960s, particularly by the
small groups led by two influential figures in the development of modal jazz: Miles Davis and John
McCoy Tyner, as the pianist of the John Coltrane Quartet, represents the most complete command of
modal jazz expression for me. On the piano, he is able to provide both melodic lines as well as chordal
accompaniment on his own, additionally functioning in the bass register with his strong left hand. Because
Tyner is in charge of all these musical elements, I don’t have to speculate whether the interconnections
between them would be accidental or resulting from the accompanist’s inability to understand what the
soloist is doing. For this reason, I chose Tyner’s expression as a model to thoroughly investigate in my
artistic work.
The doctoral concerts served two primary functions. First, I wanted to get involved in diverse musical
situations in which the different aspects of melodic-harmonic movement would be critical, both as a soloist
and as an accompanist. Secondly, I wanted to get a broad knowledge of the material that McCoy Tyner
worked with during the 1960s. The objective was to become familiar with the compositional ideas that
potentially contributed to Tyner’s growth as a musician.
In preparing for the concerts, I learned the tunes from the recordings and selected particularly
interesting compositions to be rehearsed and performed with a band. I chose the accompanying musicians
according to the material, my personal characteristics, and the musical attributes that I was working on. I
also transcribed many of Tyner’s solos to investigate how he approached the music. I spent a year in
preparing for each of the doctoral concerts, which were given from 2009–2012.
For the first concert, I examined the two albums that McCoy Tyner recorded with the guitarist Grant
Green: Solid5 and Matador6, both from 1964. The main point of interest here was about the pure sound of
hollowbody jazz guitar in relation to how Tyner and Elvin Jones, who is on drums on both these records,
4 The importance of these musicians is discussed in the two great books by Ashley Kahn: Kind of Blue: The Making of
the Miles Davis Masterpiece and A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album.
5 Grant Green: Solid. Blue Note LT 990, 1979. Recorded on June 12, 1964.
6 Grant Green: Matador. Blue Note GXF-3053, 1979. Recorded on May 20, 1964.
For the second concert I focused on the early studio recordings of the John Coltrane Quartet from
October 1960. While working on the material, I understood how revealing these sessions are in relation to
both McCoy Tyner’s personal style and John Coltrane’s later work. Many of the questions and ideas leading
to this thesis originated from going through Coltrane’s music.
The third concert concentrated on all the different recordings that Tyner took part in as a sideman
between 1963 and 1969, including sessions led by Joe Henderson, Blue Mitchell, Freddie Hubbard, Wayne
Shorter, Lee Morgan, Stanley Turrentine, Hank Mobley, Donald Byrd, Bobby Hutcherson, Milt Jackson, and
Lou Donaldson. Some of this music I also recorded in a separate studio session for the Finnish Broadcasting
Company. Through this concert, I more comprehensively understood that many musicians experimented
with similar improvisatory approaches during the 1960s, adding a personal touch to them.
The fourth concert was based on McCoy Tyner’s original compositions and arrangements, particularly
from the later part of the 1960s and early 1970s. Studying this material further illuminated Tyner’s musical
thinking and helped me to connect the harmonic movements found in his compositions to his
improvisational style. This music was performed at two other concerts in Finland and recorded in studio as
well, but the material has not been commercially released.
The final step for the artistic part was to publish a recording with my own quartet performing original
material, based on the previous artistic work. The album Sami Linna Quartet was released in 2019 on
Timmion Records.
Through the artistic process, I became aware of the importance of dominant chords in McCoy Tyner’s
expression. More than before, I began to see it as a central element to the John Coltrane Quartet’s sound,
as well as the jazz tradition generally. In addition to that, I found the concept of applying dominant
movements helpful for me when improvising in modal contexts. I came up with more detailed thoughts
centering around improvising on extended static vamps, as well as increased melodic freedom in playing
over chord progressions.
The artistic work directed me to continue studying McCoy Tyner’s playing in my thesis, particularly
addressing his use of dominant chords. I had already transcribed many solos, but I had chosen them simply
according to what sounded interesting or seemed important at the time. At this point, most of my
transcriptions were from material that was recorded in 1964 or later, and it puzzled me why Tyner kept
making subtle changes in his left-hand voicings in a seemingly random fashion. Also, I couldn’t understand
some of his melodic lines. It had become evident that Tyner’s style had changed so much during the 1960s
that his approach would be difficult to understand without thoroughly going through the steps leading to
his mature style.
In the early stages of research for my thesis, I got stuck for a long time going through the origins and
definitions of modal jazz as well as searching for McCoy Tyner’s various influences. These turned out to be
huge topics in themselves. Whatever I found as the first example of a particular innovation was soon
followed by a discovery of an even earlier example. I went through periods of studying the music of
Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Duke Ellington, Red Garland, Horace Silver, and Bill Evans, sporadically going
back to the music of the John Coltrane Quartet from 1960 to 1965. In addition to that, I went further back
in history to transcribe Fletcher Henderson, Louis Armstrong, and Art Tatum, as well as my old bop
favorites Charlie Parker, Hank Mobley, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, and Barry Harris. Much of the material
was also used for the courses I taught at the jazz department of the Sibelius Academy of the University of
the Arts Helsinki.
Because the primary reason for me to study McCoy Tyner’s expression was artistic and connected to my
subjective conception of music, I wasn’t initially too concerned on systematically going through the existing
research on his style. It also has to be noted that there is so much insight that has never been written down
but is just passed on from musician to musician, verbally and through musical examples. I feel that in terms
of musical insight, my work is largely built upon the lessons, conversations, and playing opportunities I have
had with Professor Jukkis Uotila, especially, as well as Dave Liebman, Jim Beard, Dana Hall, Tim Hagans,
Quincy Davis, Michael Weiss, Peter Bernstein, Robert Hurst, Jack Wilkins, Mike Moreno, Steve Cardenas,
Aaron Goldberg, Bruce Barth, Kendrick Scott, Jesse van Ruller, Jonathan Kreisberg, Walter Smith III, Seamus
Blake, John Scofield, Mike Stern, Conrad Herwig, Gene Perla, Walt Weiskopf, Chico Pinheiro, Pasquale
Grasso, and Obed Calvaire, along with many other incredible musicians.
In preparation for writing the thesis, I went through the existing research on McCoy Tyner, as well
pedagogical material related to his style. There is still not that much academic research available, especially
compared to how much research there is on John Coltrane. I found only one doctoral dissertation focusing
solely on Tyner, by Alton Merrell II, The Life And Music of McCoy Tyner: An Examination of the Sociocultural
Influences on McCoy Tyner and His Music.7 Merrell has taken on an enormous task by aiming to cover the
historical and sociocultural influences as well as the analysis of McCoy Tyner’s mature piano style. The
musical analysis is based on Merrell’s transcriptions of three McCoy Tyner’s solos from 1967. Merrell’s
intent to study the tension–release movement and the interaction between Tyner’s left and right hand is
significant, but the material is not broad enough to yield new and far-reaching results.
Brian Levy goes through some accurate examples of both McCoy Tyner’s accompaniment and solos in
his exceptionally thorough doctoral dissertation Harmonic and Rhythmic Interaction in the Music of John
7 Merrell 2013.
Coltrane.8 Levy brings up excellent points on the quartet’s interaction, but since Tyner’s playing is just one
part of the whole, not that many aspects of his style can be covered.
Some articles on McCoy Tyner’s style can be found in scholarly journals. Benjamin Givan’s Apart
Playing: McCoy Tyner and ”Bessie’s Blues” is an extremely insightful article and respectable in its accuracy
considering that it only examines one solo.9 However, through the knowledge gained by a more substantial
volume of transcriptions, I hope to be able to give some complementary insight into Tyner’s solo on
”Bessie’s Blues”. Paul Rinzler’s articles McCoy Tyner: Style and Syntax and The Quartal and Pentatonic
Harmony of McCoy Tyner are pivotal as representing the early research on Tyner. However, their relevance
today can be questioned, merely because of the vastly improved possibilities for accurate transcribing.10
In a dissertation from 2009, Poul Sejersen elaborates from the findings in Benjamin Givan’s article,
analyzing examples from four McCoy Tyner’s solos, and pointing to the use of the dominant chord as a way
of creating tension and release.11 The dissertation is in Danish but a summary in English is included.
Sejersen analyzes examples from four McCoy Tyner’s solos and points to the use of the dominant chord as
a way to create tension and release. Because of the limited research material, Sejersen relies on earlier
research in assessing McCoy Tyner’s style as a whole. Nevertheless, his findings offer an indication on the
importance of dominant chords in Tyner’s expression.
It is a shame that there are no published biographies or books devoted wholly to McCoy Tyner.
However, Tyner’s key role as a part of the John Coltrane Quartet is brought up in books about Coltrane and
the respective authors have interviewed Tyner on many occasions. Lewis Porter’s John Coltrane: His Life
and Music contains many remarks on McCoy Tyner’s playing, and in my thesis I aim to get to a more
detailed level with some of Porter’s comments.12 I also referenced Cuthbert Simpkins’, J.C. Thomas’, Bill
Cole’s, and Brian Priestley’s biographies on Coltrane.13 The published manuscripts of Coltrane’s
compositions in Simpkins’ book were particularly valuable as a reference, as were some interesting quotes
from Tyner in Priestley’s book. I looked at some other books on Coltrane as well, but they concentrated
more on subjective recollections of the music. In addition to the Coltrane biographies, I inspected two
excellent books by Ashley Kahn, as they contain important historical information and interesting quotes
from McCoy Tyner – Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece and A Love Supreme: The
Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album.14

Many of the references above cite McCoy Tyner’s interviews from different magazines. I made it my
objective to acquire as many of the magazines in which Tyner is featured as I could. These included back
issues of Down Beat, JazzTimes, Keyboard, Clavier, Jazz Journal International, Cadence and The Black
Scholar. The most important interviews for this work were the audio interviews with Tyner from the
National Public Radio: Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz and Ben Sidran’s Sidran on Record.15 Both are
available online and Sidran’s interview has also been released on CD, which I used as my source. Both of the
programs include musical examples performed by Tyner on piano.16
Accomplished jazz pianists such as Andy LaVerne, George Colligan, and Ethan Iverson have published
blog posts and pedagogical articles on McCoy Tyner’s style, along with assured mentions in comprehensive
piano books like Mark Levine’s The Jazz Piano Book.17 The pedagogic material typically concentrates on the
same scale-based voicing aspects that Paul Rinzler’s scholarly articles cover. Tyner’s use of dominant chords
and functional movements together with modal sounds is not featured.
I also looked at comprehensive books on jazz improvisation to see how McCoy Tyner’s impact on the
jazz tradition is portrayed. Probably the most extensive study on the different aspects of jazz improvisation,
Paul F. Berliner’s Thinking in Jazz features several references to Tyner’s playing as a member of the John
Coltrane Quartet.18 Berliner also compares the comping styles of Red Garland, McCoy Tyner, and Herbie
Hancock, and a large score segment of the John Coltrane Quartet’s version of “Softly, as in a Morning
Sunrise” is included. However, the musical examples are generally short and they are chosen to highlight
unified aspects and assumed interconnections of group interplay. To really capture the multilayered
features of the John Coltrane Quartet and McCoy Tyner’s style would have required more varied examples
than such a broad overall compendium could include. Therefore, Tyner’s expression gets portrayed in an
overly simplified manner.
From my point of view, most of the existing research on McCoy Tyner is based on a very limited
number of transcriptions. Consequently, it seems to me that the common understanding about Tyner’s
playing covers only the very surface – modal scales, fourth voicings, pentatonic scales, triad pairs, left-hand
fifths, and side-slipping techniques. There is no denying the relevance of all of that, but in most cases the
foundation on which everything is built is either taken for granted or just forgotten. In connection with
that, it was surprising to find out how much Tyner actually has talked about his style in quite clear and
particular musical terms. He has answered the same questions many times with almost identical phrases
and metaphors, even though there has been years and years in between the interviews.
15 McPartland 2008 [1983]; Sidran 2006 [1985].
16 I ended up transcribing these interviews myself even though Benjamin Givan’s article includes a partial transcription
of the interview from the Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz and Ben Sidran released an edited version of his interview
in the book Talking Jazz: An Oral History. (Givan 2007, 276-278; Sidran 1995.)
17 LaVerne 1997; 2018; Colligan 2010; 2011; 2012; Iverson 2018; Levine 1989.
18 Berliner 1994.
When talking to someone about my project, I was often faced with the question: ”If you want to know
how McCoy Tyner plays, why don’t you just ask him?” But so far everything that I have found in his music
has made perfect sense with what he has already said many times. Also, in writing this text I have had to,
again and again, come to terms with the limitations of the level of musical detail that can be explained in
words. I can only imagine how difficult and unnecessary it would feel for someone like McCoy Tyner to try
to convey the intricate attributes of his music in words.
In his excellent book, The Studio Recordings of the Miles Davis Quintet 1965-68, Keith Waters brings out the
complexity of the term modal jazz. He notes: ”modal jazz stands for a network of musical features that may
appear in some combination”. Drawing from scholarly discussions of Miles Davis’ and John Coltrane’s
music, Waters lists five common characteristics of modal jazz, to which he adds a sixth:
1. Modal scales for improvisation (or as a source for accompaniment)
2. Slow harmonic rhythm (single chord for 4, 8, 16 or more bars)
3. Pedal point harmonies (focal bass pitch or shifting harmonies over a primary bass pitch)
4. Absence or limited use of functional harmonic progressions (such as V-I or ii-V-I) in
accompaniment or improvisation
5. Harmonic characteristic of jazz after 1959 (Suspended fourth–”sus”–chords, slash chords,
harmonies named for modes; i.e., phrygian, aeolian harmonies)
6. Prominent use of melodic and/or harmonic perfect fourths”19
Waters also mentions the John Coltrane Quartet’s recordings from 1960 to 1964 as representative modal
jazz works, specifically naming “Acknowledgement”, “Impressions”, “India” and “My Favorite Things”.20 He
doesn’t explain the reason for excluding the recordings from 1965, but it must be because of the sound of
the quartet becoming more and more chromatic.
In the following chapters, I will label particular musical features as representing modal or tonal sound.
By modal sounds, I mean distinct colors achieved by bringing out the characteristic tones of a modal scale,
such as Dorian or Lydian scale. Tonal, on the other hand, refers to the sound of major and minor keys and
the conventions of jazz improvisation prior to the emergence of modal concepts in the late 1950s. After
going through all of the material, I will come back to the modal jazz characteristics listed by Waters and see
how the musical examples covered in this thesis relate to them.

All of the material analyzed in this thesis was acquired by transcribing from audio recordings. Even though
there are some published transcriptions of McCoy Tyner’s solos available, as well as many more unofficial
transcriptions being shared via the internet, I chose to transcribe everything myself. The main reason for
that is the artistic approach of the work: as a jazz musician, my ability to hear is more important for my
expertise than anything else. Relying on someone else’s abilities and interpretations would have, in my
opinion, compromised my own development. Since I am not a pianist myself, I consulted pianists during the
research process, particularly about chord voicings. These musicians were Jukkis Uotila, Michael Weiss, and
Mikko Helevä. But the more I transcribed, the more confident I became in my ability to hear even the twohanded
piano voicings.
To be able to select the material and have a better understanding of McCoy Tyner’s recorded output, I
went through his discography from 1964 to 1969 (studio recordings and official live recordings, both as a
sideman and leader) and made a separate digital file, in AIFF format, of every single solo from that period. I
tagged and catalogued the files in a way that enabled me to listen to them chronologically or, for example,
by harmonic framework such as the blues. Later on, as new questions directed my interests to the earlier
period, I started to do the same for the recordings from 1959 to 1963. That work is yet to be completed
with a few recordings from 1962-63 missing.
I felt that in order to find something new, I definitely should study material that others hadn’t. So for a
long time, I chose not to pick solos that were considered essential, such as ”Passion Dance” or ”Inception”,
and instead concentrate on other recordings. Eventually, I ended up transcribing those as well, because
they did prove to be important.
Accuracy of the transcriptions is crucial to the relevance of any analysis let alone reliable conclusions.
This is probably the greatest challenge to any research dealing with an analysis of jazz expression. For this
reason, I have shamelessly exploited every possibility that the current technology offers. I used a MacBook
Pro laptop computer and the software Transcribe! to slow the music down without it affecting the pitch. I
could also loop short fractions of the track to isolate individual chords. Additionally, I took advantage of the
possibility to examine the sounding frequencies visually. This turned out to be a very important feature in
the software since I gradually learned to use it to discern what is actually played on the piano from the
overtones of the bass or frequencies from the drums. For example, the root played by the bass at the same
time with a chord by the piano makes it often really sound like the fifth of the chord would be included in
the piano voicing – even though it isn’t there. On those occasions the knowledge on how the piano
overtones ring could be used to decide the case. Also, it is sometimes incredibly difficult to know in which
octave register a certain note is played. Depending on the piano and the audio quality of the recording, the
first overtone partial can sound very prominent while the pitch actually played might be barely audible.21
Still, my final decision was always dictated more by what I heard rather than what I saw in the frequency
analysis. On those occasions where I couldn’t decide whether a note is actually played on the keyboard or
whether it results from an overtone resonance, I have notated it using a smaller notehead.

The piano is a rewarding instrument to transcribe in many respects. The pitches are defined and they
correspond to the notation system so there is no need to interpret whether an out-of-pitch note would be
closer to one or the other note. This is often the case when transcribing the bass or the saxophone.
However, the equivalent of that on the piano are the situations where within a line that is clearly intended
as a single note line there is an accidental double stop resulting from a slightly missed note. In these
occasions, I have used a regular notehead for the note that I interpreted as the one more important for the
analysis while the other note has been marked with an x-shaped notehead.
I went through the existing video sources from 1960s to compare the sounding frequencies to the
visual information on Tyner’s fingers hitting the keys. This elucidated the effect of the overtone resonances
for me, as I could see that some of the clearly sounding frequencies were definitely not actually played on
the keyboard. This led me to leave out notes from the voicings rather than to expect all of the sounding
notes to be pressed down on the keyboard. The video sources also directed the notated division of voices
to left and right hands, even though the videos also show Tyner varying his fingerings readily.
The most important means to achieve better accuracy in my case, as I don’t have perfect pitch or any
better ability to hear than an average jazz musician, was just the sheer amount of work. I ended up
transcribing a considerable amount of solos, as well as Tyner’s accompaniment and compositions, of which
material only a part is included in this thesis. Many times, I thought that I would need to transcribe ”just
one more” solo in order to clarify questions that had arisen from analysis of the previous transcription.
Also, it became clear that on many occasions, Tyner works with the same ideas through his solo, repeating
them in the choruses that follow. In addition to contributing to the accuracy of the transcription itself, extra
material helped my analysis tremendously. In many cases, an individual melodic line is open to at least a
few possible interpretations. But when analyzed together with a few different versions of the same idea
from another chorus or another solo from the same time period, the intention becomes clarified. For this
reason, I have transcribed many complete solos instead of just concentrating on the essential bars. Most of
my effort has been directed at the accuracy of McCoy Tyner’s piano parts, while the other instruments are
included for reference.
Regardless of all the work, some misprints and misinterpretations are bound to exist in the
transcriptions. Even so, I am fairly confident that the possible inaccuracies do not have a significant effect
on the relevance of the analysis. The complete list of my McCoy Tyner transcriptions is found on page 280.

Because the main focus of this text is on harmony and melody, the limitations of the notation system in
regards to jazz rhythm are not a major issue. It still has to be addressed that many of the rhythmic
intricacies cannot be written out.

The eighth-note phrasing has generally not been notated or approximated as triplets for two reasons.
First of all, the eighth notes are not actually played as consistent triplets, but varied in different ways. To
really write out the phrasing accurately would make even the simplest melodic statements extremely
difficult to read. A sense of how the rhythms are actually interpreted can only be achieved by listening to
the original recordings. However, I have used triplets in two situations: 1) when an eighth-note phrase
directly follows or precedes a triplet-based rhythm and 2) when the tempo of the tune is slow and the
melodic motives use triplet-based rhythms along with eighth notes actually phrased as triplets (this is the
case in John Coltrane’s ”Village Blues”, for example). Quarter notes have been written generally with each
instrument’s typical phrasing in mind. In melodies and accompanying chords, the quarter notes are
predominantly played short. Therefore, the quarter notes that, in fact, are played to their full value are
marked separately. Because in walking bass lines the quarter notes are generally sustained to create a
flowing line, I have made extra markings only if the bass note is phrased short. Rhythmic bass vamps (or
ostinatos), on the other hand, follow the same phrasing conventions as melodies.
The exact note durations are compromised in many cases in order to make reading easier. This
concerns especially the durations of Tyner’s left-hand voicings, which I have often written to the next
quarter note or to the next chord, even if they are not really sustained that long. Similarly, I have
interpreted many voicings as a repetition of the previous or following voicing even if not all the notes are
equally audible. In McCoy Tyner’s expression, there is a considerable amount of variation on how loud each
individual note in a chord is played. These subtle details are omitted from the transcriptions since the idea
of the complete voicing is more important for the analysis than the occasional prominence of single voices
within the chords.

Concerning harmony and melody, I have strived to represent the music in notation with as much detail
as possible throughout this work. I have avoided using chord symbols to depict chord voicings, as the
symbols can communicate only a very general idea about a particular sound. There is just one exception: I
have not notated the big band brass voicings from Boyd Rayburn’s version of ”A Night in Tunisia” since I felt
my approximation of them wouldn’t be more accurate than what the chord symbols can convey.
Otherwise, all the chord voicings have been written out.
I found chord symbols helpful for the purpose of analysis. With chord symbols markings, I have tried
to connect the notated chord voicings and melodic motives to broader contexts in which McCoy Tyner
typically uses them. In labeling an individual melodic motive as representing a certain chord color, I have
considered: 1) the line itself and how the notes fall in relation to the underlying pulse, 2) the context in
which the line is played, and 3) the contexts in which the same or similar lines are found in other recorded
performances by McCoy Tyner. When the melodic line and the left-hand chords both have a clear individual
identity, I have analyzed them separately. If a melodic gesture doesn’t clearly define any harmonic color or
if it just complements the left-hand harmony, I have not necessarily repeated the chord symbol already
stated for the left-hand voicing. For Roman numeral analysis symbols I use upper case Roman numerals
only, so Dmi7-G7-C6 is simply II-V-I in the key of C major. I use lower case letters for note names in the text
to distinguish them from chord symbols and tonal centers.