52 Jazz Tracks for 2021 (13. Re: Person I knew, from ‘Nutty (on) Willisau’ – Coe, Oxley & Co, 1983)

The thirteenth of Jon Turney’s weekly selection (introduced HERE), a British jazz master at the peak of his powers.
Pic from original LP sleeve - credited to Markus di Francesco

Pic of Tony Coe from original LP sleeve. Photo credit Markus di Francesco

If you only know the greatness of Tony Coe from his work with, say, the Clarke-Boland big band or as a devotee of Henry Mancini, this set is something of a revelation. The Willisau festival invited him over for a British jazz showcase, and he chose to play with the giant of free percussion Tony Oxley and the redoubtable Chris Laurence (the “and Co”) on bass.

Nutty album coverThey made an astonishing trio, but Coe is the dominant voice, on tenor, soprano (this track) and his always remarkable, liquid clarinet. He is freely inventive in a way that few can match – you could easily mistake some of his work here for Anthony Braxton or Sam Rivers.

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There are strong influences here. Dolphy, for example, comes through in a way that calls to mind some of Bennie Wallace’s work a bit later on, but the style is all Coe’s own. And – as on this excursion on one of Bill Evans’ best known themes – the trio feel as if they’re threatening to break the bounds of the song much of the time. It’s quite a ride.

There are Coe episodes elsewhere that display his pan-stylistic powers to the full – hear the just-released live version of Neil Ardley’s Kaleidoscope of Rainbows, or try Mike Gibbs’ Only Chrome Waterfall Orchestra. But I don’t know of another occasion where that was really the entire business.

LINKS: Listen on Spotify More on this recording on Jon’s Bristol Jazz Log Read Jon’s introduction to the ’52 tracks’ series Week Twelve: Sho’ Nuff Blues, Bobby Bradford and the Mo’ Tet, 1983

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