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An adventurous and flexible improviser, Tony Coe has long been one of England's top jazzmen. He has performed in settings ranging from straight-ahead bop and borderline Dixieland to post-bop and free, keeping his own strong musical personality intact throughout his career. Coe started on clarinet and was self-taught on tenor. He performed in an Army band during 1953-1956 and played with Humphrey Lyttelton's mainstream group during 1957-1962. After heading his own band (1962-1964), Coe was offered a spot with Count Basie's Orchestra, but difficulties with immigration foiled that opportunity.
Coe's versatility was clearly in evidence by the late '60s. In addition to playing with John Dankworth's big band (1966-1969) and the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Orchestra (1967-1973), he also worked with Derek Bailey's very avant-garde Company, Stan Tracey, and several of his own groups. Associations with the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble and with the Mike Gibbs big band were also beneficial. Coe, whose tenor is well-featured during Henry Mancini's Pink Panther films, has also written advanced works for orchestras. In 1995, he won the Danish Jazzpar Prize. Influenced most by Paul Gonsalves on tenor, in addition to being a very fluent clarinetist, Coe has led sessions for a variety of European labels including Nixa, Phillips, Columbia, 77, Nato, Hat Art, and Hot House.
Anthony George Coe (born 29 November 1934, Canterbury, Kent, England) is an English composer and jazz musician who plays clarinet, bass clarinet and tenor saxophone.
Coe began his performing career playing with Humphrey Lyttelton's band from 1957 to 1962. In 1965 he was invited to join Count Basie's band ('I'm glad it didn't come off – I would have lasted about a fortnight') and has since played with the John Dankworth Orchestra, The Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band, Derek Bailey's Company, Stan Tracey, Michael Gibbs, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie and Bob Brookmeyer, and performed under Pierre Boulez as well as leading a series of groups of his own, including Coe Oxley & Co with drummer Tony Oxley. He played played clarinet on Paul McCartney's recording of "I'll Give You A Ring", released in 1982, and saxophone on John Martyn's 1973 album Solid Air.
Coe has also worked with Matrix, a small ensemble formed by clarinettist Alan Hacker, with a wide-ranging repertoire of early, classical and contemporary music, the Danish Radio Big Band, Metropole Orchestra and Skymasters in Holland.
Coe has recorded on soundtracks for several films, including Superman II, Victor/Victoria, Nous irons tous au paradis, Leaving Las Vegas, Le Plus beau métier du monde and The Loss of Sexual Innocence, and he is the featured tenor sax soloist in Henry Mancini's music for the Pink Panther films. He also composed the film score for Camomille.
In 1975 a grant from the Arts Council enabled him to write Zeitgeist, an large scale orchestral work fusing jazz and rock elements with techniques from European Art Music.
Among the awards Coe has received are an honorary D.Mus and the prestigious Danish Jazzpar Prize (1995, the first non-American to receive this prize).
One of Tony Coe's sons is radio broadcaster Gideon Coe.
Citing Paul Gonsalves as an influence, Coe is especially noted for his versatility.
"Tony Coe is one of the most remarkable and brilliant musicians in the world. The sheer range of his musical activity… …is staggering and testifies to an awe-inspiring instrumental mastery." Humphrey Lyttelton
"Coe is a player of astonishing versatility and brilliance." Ian Carr