Bob Perkins Remembers One Heck of a Night With McCoy Tyner

Apr 14, 2020

When a dynamic figure in any walk of life departs, writers and just plain folks, usually try to recall certain events about the departed in which they may have been involved, or heard about.

The dynamic jazz pianist McCoy Tyner passed away last month, and there were a number of memorial events marking his departure.

I have attended many a jazz concert in my years as an emcee, and as just a plain lover of the music, but this concert, on this night, was something special. -BP

I recall an earlier musical bow to Mr. Tyner, at which I attended. I don’t know the reason behind the tribute, or whose idea it was…perhaps it was just because he was McCoy Tyner, which was certainly good enough.

The tribute took place at the defunct 38th Street Café, which was housed on 38th Street, between Chestnut and Market streets in Philly; the year must have been 1983. The house was packed, and some folks had to stand.

Edith Huggins, the then news lady at Channel 10, served as emcee. I don’t recall all of the musicians who played that night, because the concert was almost toward 40 years ago, and I’ve just forgotten some of the names, but I remember violinist John Blake played, as did saxophonist Gary Bartz and Grover Washington, Jr. The musicians played like this was their last night on Earth.

The night would not have been complete if McCoy had not been called on to take the stand and join in the celebration. 

For me, trying to capture the essence of that evening in print or in spoken word is impossible--you‘d have had to be there. I’ve attended many a jazz concert in my years as an emcee, and as just a plain lover of the music, but this concert—on this night—was something special.    

Time has taken its toll, and some of the names mentioned in this piece, are no longer with us: John Blake, is gone, as are Grover Washington, Ms. Huggins and now McCoy.

The photo accompanying this piece occurred prior to a concert at the Gershman Y in around 2002, at which I brought McCoy and his trio on stage.

We chatted a bit before he and the trio went on. I complimented him on his longevity in the music industry as a primary artist, marking his early day with the Benny Golson-Art Farmer group; his years with John Coltrane, and now the leader of his own groups. McCoy turned the compliment around and complimented me on being in radio more than just a few years. We joked about it and hoped we’d be doing it for years to come.

When I mentioned the tribute to him two decades ago at 38th Street Café, he didn’t recall it. But no matter, because he‘d had his share of tributes in life…and in his passing, more to follow.