Born in Ansonia, Connecticut, Tinney was a child actor on the stage, and was a cast member in the original production of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess in 1935. He led the house band at Monroe's from 1939 to 1943 featuring the likes of Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Little Benny Harris, George Treadwell, and Victor Coulsen. He was an influential bebop pianist, whose style can be heard echoed in the playing of Bud Powell, George Wallington, Al Haig, and Duke Jordan.
Tinney abhorred the connection between jazz music and drugs, and after 1946 began to play increasingly in other styles and outlets. He was a member of the one-hit wonder group The Jive Bombers in 1957. In 1968 he moved to Buffalo, New York, where he worked locally in jazz music, did work in a state prison music program, and lectured at SUNY Buffalo. He recorded an album with Peggy Farrell (Margaret Alice Farrell), Peg & Al, for Border City Records in 2000.
Later in life, Tinney often played at the historic Colored Musicians Club in downtown Buffalo or with Peggy Farrell's house band. Al spent much of his free time supporting the local arts and music scene in Buffalo, and would often be seen in the Allentown, Johnson Park, Elmwood Village areas in the City of Buffalo.
He died in Buffalo in 2002.
- The Tinney Family Reunion website