Piano Greats

Regarding Greg Burk’s flippant remark that “McCoy Tyner is the most overrated pianist who ever lived” [“Beauty/Noise,” June 16–22]. McCoy Tyner is one of the most important pianists in the history of jazz. He is among the very few with an immediately distinctive style; Tyner forged radical new territory throughout the ’60s and ’70s as both a soloist and an accompanist. His longtime partnerships with both John Coltrane and Elvin Jones reinvented the harmonic and rhythmic role of the pianist in small-group jazz, and yielded such astonishing work as A Love Supreme, Om, Meditations and John Coltrane Quartet Plays.

His fleet-fingered and muscular playing was admired and used by many of the cutting-edge players during that dynamic period, including saxophonists Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter. Tyner also recorded several powerful solo and trio records during this period. His use of fourth intervals remains to this day one of the largest influences on every jazz pianist who followed him.

Although Tyner may not have sustained these heights in later years, his uncompromised legacy is indelible and unquestionable.

Tom Canning


A Reasonable Analysis of the Causes of Global Warming?

I suppose it’s nice to see that the PETA propagandists have resorted to using a left-leaning leaflet to push their loony agenda [Letters, “Animal Farm,” June 23–29].

I’ve got to add my theory as to why global warming is upon us. Based on all the evidence I’ve seen, I must conclude it is the only logical explanation. The reason we have global warming today is because of hair dryers.

Think about it: Mechanical hair dryers didn’t really exist before the 1900s. First, we had the women’s hair salons, with the big, bulky hair dryers popularized in comic strips and movies. Then, hand-held hair dryers started being made and sold by the hundreds, then thousands, then millions! This rise in hair-dryer production (and undoubted use) coincides with the period when global warming has become most noticeable.

Using PETA-type thinking, the only solution is for everyone in the world to shave all their hair off. This would have other benefits besides immediately stopping heat from being generated and warming up the atmosphere. Less clothing would be required, and “animal agriculture” for clothing would be reduced as well. Additionally, food-industry workers wouldn’t have to wear hair nets, and thus would spend less time in the preparation of food. And lastly (for the purpose of this letter, there are still other benefits I haven’t mentioned here), the money spent on hair-care products could be better put to use in medical research . . . oh, wait, that might involve animals . . . how about for existing prescriptions for senior drug plans, or perhaps universal preschool?

Steven Desens


The Red Scare

Steve Mikulan is welcome to his opinions of my play The Value of Names [“Tête Offensive,” June 30–July 6]. But he’s wrong about some of the other stuff — like matters of fact and dramatic construction.

Mikulan: “Leo’s spontaneous decision to drop in on Norma in Malibu . . . makes no sense at all. People in L.A. never drive through traffic without first calling to see if the person they’re visiting is actually home.” The point is that Leo knows that if he does call, there is no way he’d be invited in. His not calling is part of his tactic, not my lapse in logic.

Mikulan: “Sweet would have us believe that Benny (and, by implication, others) ran afoul of HUAC simply because he contributed to a Spanish Republican benefit . . . The truth is that most people whose names were given to HUAC had at least briefly belonged to the Communist Party.” I knew several people who were blacklisted who had not been members of the party. The mother-in-law of a friend was sent to jail for three months in a federal penitentiary because she refused to share the membership list of an organization she did secretarial work for but was not a member of.

Mikulan: “We’re also led to think that the great sin of Leo, the Elia Kazan–like director, was to give up Benny’s name. In reality, nearly everyone called before the committee gave names (most of which were already known to the committee), but few of them were ever condemned by history.” This is, again, not true. Read Victor Navasky’s book Naming Names. He reports that about two-thirds of the people who called refused to cooperate.

Jeffrey Sweet

New York

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