Tony Coe. A tribute by Aldevis Tibaldi

Italian-born saxophonist Aldevis Tibaldi got to know Tony Coe in recent years. He remembers him with gratitude, and sadness.

Tony Coe (saxello). Photo credit Fabio Lugaro

Italian-born saxophonist Aldevis Tibaldi got to know Tony Coe in recent years. He remembers him with gratitude, and sadness.

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After hearing Tony Coe’s playing on BBC Radio 3, I decided that what I really needed was to take some clarinet lessons from this musician whose approach to the instrument was so powerful and original.

Arranging to meet him for the first time was not easy; “I am not a teacher” was a phrase repeated many times during our first conversation. I even had to send him a recording of mine since he wanted to “know what kind of musician he is talking to”.

Eventually Tony agreed to meet me and have a chat about clarinets, mostly because of his curiosity about equipment – which I share. Our first “clarinet lesson” mostly resulted in listening to The Firebird (conducted by Boulez), analysing some Delius scores, and discussing one chord used by Alban Berg in his Violin Concerto.

I was unaware of quite how many-faceted his approach to music was, since I mostly knew of his work with Mancini and with the Clarke/Boland big band. But as our conversations progressed, Tony’s eclectic knowledge became more and more apparent. He would find some recording of his that he was proud of, not a common thing, and it could be a live jazz recording or a classical composition.

He would change his mind about them, but “How long has this been going on” from “Captain Coe’s Famous Racearound” (Storyville, 1996, Bandcamp link below) was one he mentioned often (I have the score: he wanted me to play it), and also “Some Other Autumn” (Hep Jazz 1994). Les Voix d’Itxassou (NATO1990) is a very peculiar album that he was really proud of: it’s unique sounding…

One thing I found paradoxical, considering Tony’s history and preparation, is that he always had an outstanding veneration for Paul Gonsalves (whose influence is clear in his tenor playing) and Johnny Hodges. Well into his eighties Tony was still calling for advice about the instrument and mouthpiece that would make him “sound like Rabbit”

Tony Coe leaves an immense legacy in music. Hopefully it will someday be organically collected, as it deserves.

I have so much I want to thank Tony (and Sue) for. His friendship was something I have been really privileged to experience; I will really miss our next conversation…

LINK: Captain Coe’s Famous Racearound on Bandcamp

Aldevis Tibaldi

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