Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


COE, Tony

(b 29 November 1934) UK reedman whose superb playing on several instruments brings musical intelligence, wit and swing to any format. He studied clarinet as a child, alto sax at 16, later tenor; joined the Royal Army, played in a service band; then with Humphrey Lyttelton on alto '57, toured USA; recorded with Lyttelton off and on for a decade. He formed his own highly rated quintet '60, joined Count Basie '65, Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band for European tours late '60s, working with Art Farmer, Johnny Griffin, Stan Getz; quintet Coe, Wheeler and Co. with Kenny Wheeler, other small groups called Matrix (with fellow clarinettist Alan Hacker) and Axel; recorded with Paul McCartney '82; with a Thad Jones big band at San Remo Festival same year.

He was heard in film scores The Devils '70, The Boy Friend '71, Superman 2 '80, Leaving Las Vegas '95; played the Henry Mancini main theme in Pink Panther movies (taking over from Plas Johnson). He recorded with Clarke/Boland; own LPs on Nixa '58, '61; Swingin' Till The Girls Come Home '62; LP on EMI Columbia '67; Pop Makes Progress '69 with Robert Farnon; a live date at Ronnie Scott's club '71 on 77 label (Dobell record shop used to be at 77 Charing Cross Road, London) reissued as Some Other Autumn on Hep CD, a quartet with Brian Lemon, Dave Green and Phil Seamen (tracks were added to the CD which Coe had originally rejected). Zeitgeist, an Arts Council commission based on poems by Jill Robin, on EMI LP '76 with orchestra included Wheeler, vocalists Mary Thomas, Norma Winstone; quartet set Coexistenceée du Chat '79 on a Lee Lambert label. On the French Nato label, Tournée du Chat '81-2 has Coe's 17-minute 'The Jolly Corner', with two clarinets (Coe and Hacker) and piano trio, and other pieces solo or with bassist John Lindberg; Sept Tableaux Phoniques/Erik Satie '83 has two comps by Coe, others by Dave Holland, Lol Coxhill, etc; trio Nutty On Willisau was made live at the Willisau Jazz Festival '84 with Tony Oxley and bassist Chris Laurence; Le Chat se Retourne '85 has duos and trios with Hacker and others.

Coe's works have been played by several European bands; he teaches, contributes articles to books and periodicals. Session work including Loudon Wainwright album I'm Alright, Norma Winstone's Somewhere Called Home, Derek Bailey's Time, Al Grey's Get It Together, and several albums with Austrian composer/leader Franz Koglmann (see his entry). Coe's own Canterbury Song '89 on Hothouse is a lovely mainstream outing with Benny Bailey, Horace Parlan, Jimmy Woode on bass and Idris Muhammad on drums (the same crew then made For Heaven's Sake with Bailey as leader). He played in Steve Beresford's ensemble on vocalist Kazuko Hohki's Rainy Days on Chabada; and Les Voix d'Itxassou '91 on Nato had freedom songs from various countries arranged and directed by Coe, guests including Marianne Faithfull (it was supposed to mark the bicentenary of the French Revolution, but missed the deadline). He was the first non-American to win the Danish Jazzpar prize '94, intended for an active but under-recognized talent (the awards began '89; previous winners are Muhal Richard Abrams, David Murray, Lee Konitz, Tommy Flanagan and Roy Haynes). The celebratory Jazzpar album was Captain Coe's Famous Racearound '95 on Storyville, with the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra and the Jazzpar combo, guests including Bobby Brookmeyer and Steve Argüelles. The superb Blue Jersey '95 is full of little shocks of recognition, as if containing the whole history of the music, yet uniquely and happily itself, with John and Dave Horler on piano and valve trombone, Allan Ganley on drums (d 29 March, Berkshire, aged 77) and Malcolm Creese on bass, recorded live during the 10th Jersey Jazz Festival for Creese's ABCD's label. In Concert '97 is a trio recording with Horler and Creese, on the same label, Ruby on Zah Zah a quartet with Brian Dee.