Observing the scene around McCoy Tyner at Penn's Landing this summer, a stranger to Philadelphia might have thought that being a jazz fan there was a patronage job. Everybody lining up to shake the pianist's hand as he made his way from his trailer to the stage seemed to be related to a jazz giant by blood or marriage, or to have taken auto shop with one in high school. It was as though not to pay respects to Tyner would have been a serious breech of protocol that could have resulted in immediate dismissal from the local jazz community.
Things are different in New York, where the fifty-eight-year-old Tyner lives now and where audiences seem more aware that giants need their space. A few years ago, when Tyner was performing with his trio in Greenwich Village, the latecomers to his final set one evening included Reggie Workman, a bassist who played alongside him in John Coltrane's rhythm section in the early 1960s, but whose relationship with Tyner went back even further, to when both were growing up in Philadelphia. (Workman often traveled from his parents' home in the Germantown section to Tyner's mother's beauty shop, on the corner of May and Fairmount Streets, in North Philadelphia, for late-night jam sessions.) Workman hoped to touch base with Tyner after the set—as did a writer working on a Coltrane biography, who was sitting at the same table.
What proved to be the final tune ended with a long, sliding bass solo by Avery Sharpe, accompanied by only an occasional cymbal tap by the drummer Aaron Scott. Surprisingly, Tyner never returned to the bandstand to take the tune out. As Sharpe zipped up his bass and Scott tight‐