Tony Coe: Captain Coe’s Famous Racearound

Reissue of the reed master's 1995 Jazzpar recording features Bob Brookmeyer, Steve Arguelles and the Danish Radio Big Band

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This is a welcome reissue of the original 1996 release (Storyville STCD 4206) that celebrated virtuoso British saxophonist Tony Coe winning the Danish Jazzpar prize in 1995. Apart from new cover artwork, the main difference with this CD and its ’96 counterpart is the inclusion of new liner notes by Brian Priestley.

Coe has been a ubiquitous and important figure in jazz since the late 1960s and has contributed to a diverse range of records. In addition to leading various ensembles and cutting over 25 albums under his own name, he was a long serving member of the much-loved Clarke-Boland Big Band and performed sideman duties with a huge host of players including Clark Terry, Humphrey Lyttelton, Mike Gibbs, John Dankworth, Ian Carr, Neil Ardley, Georgie Fame and Michael Garrick and in the pop world was heard on records by Paul McCartney, Spencer Davis, Caravan, John Martyn and The Hollies.

Such were his eclectic proclivities that he was equally at home playing and recording with Sandy Brown or Tony Oxley and Derek Bailey. He even ventured into the “serious” music world with a joint recording featuring Coe alongside classical clarinettist Alan Hacker.

Following the relatively sedate intro piece Prelude/How Long Has This Been Going On?/Postlude which includes Coe’s own composition tagged onto the Gershwin standard, the Latin-tinged Edmundo, also by Coe, is much livelier, and written in honour of the late bandleader Edmundo Ros. This is the first of three small-group pieces and on this track only is augmented by trumpeter Henrik Bolberg Pedersen thus affording this sextet track a fuller sound than the succeeding two.

The pastoral Toy Box and lyrical Antonia are both composed by drummer Steve Argüelles who guests on this small group session. The former number sees Coe expansively improvising whilst unobtrusively accompanied by Argüelles. On Antonia, Coe solos on soprano and guest conductor and soloist Bob Brookmeyer solos on valve trombone. There’s some sumptuous tenor from Coe on Johnny Mercer’s ballad Fool’s Rush In and Brookmeyer contributes the quirky and brass-heavy Nasty Dance in which Coe offers some intriguingly labyrinthine tenor. The penultimate tune, Maria Schneider’s My Lament, gives the big band an opportunity to display its full tonal range, providing a colourful backdrop for Coe’s masterful soloing.

After Coe’s introduction to the finale, where he explains to the audience the meaning of the title track (despite the name, the Captain was no relation but a racing tipster known to his father), this enticing number proves that this reedsman could also write superb larger-scale compositions. He is on terrific form too, here soloing on clarinet, a much-underused instrument in modern jazz. As Priestley explains in his notes, Coe’s career has recently suffered from serious health issues and now, at 86, he’s back living in his Canterbury hometown. This CD is a timely reminder of just how significant a player he’s been on the scene.

Discography
(1) Medley: Prelude / How Long Has This Been Going on / Postlude; (2) Edmundo; Toy Box; Antonia; (1) Fools Rush In; Nasty Dance; My Lament; Captain Coe’s Famous Racearound (59.30)
(1) Coe (cl, ts, ss); Bob Brookmeyer (cond, vtb); Danish Radio Big Band: Jan Kohlin, Benny Rosenfeld, Palle Bolvig, Lars Togeby, Henrik Bolberg Pederson (t, flh); Vincent Nilsson, Steen Hansen, Kjeld Ipsen (tb); Giodarno Bellincampi, Axel Windfeld (btb); Jan Zum Vohdre, Michael Hove (as); Uffe Markussen, Bob Rockwell (ts); Flemming Madsen (bar); Nikolaj Bentzon (p); Thomas Ovesen (b); Jonas Johansen (d); Ethan Weisgard (pc).
(2) The 1995 Jazzpar Combo: Coe (ss, cl); Bob Brookmeyer (vtb); Anders “Chico” Lindvall (g); Henrik Bolberg Pederson (t); David Hazeltine (p); Thomas Ovesen (b); Steve Argüelles (d).
1,4,7,8: Copenhagen, 19 March 1995; 2,3,6: Tønder, Denmark, 17 March 1995; 5: Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, 6 March 1995.
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