Waterfront: Ipswich gallery owner rediscovers jazz music
16:37 20 March 2014
Gallery owner Tony shared a stage with music legends
Art gallery owner Tony Coe, of the John Russell Gallery, has twin passions in his life, art and jazz music.
Mr Coe, who worked as a professional musician in the 1960s and 1970s, before concentrating on developing the gallery by the Waterfront, has recently re-discovered the joy of performing.
He said: “I haven’t played for 28 years, when I was in a band called The Regulars. I’ve started playing again, and I am enjoying it.”
Mr Coe met jazz legend George Melly when he was playing professionally and he agreed to open the John Russell Gallery for him.
Mr Coe’s father Ray was a musician and band leader with his Rayalto Big Band and he worked with Ipswich Town under Alf Ramsey,
Mr Coe himself took lessons in playing the double bass and later played the bass guitar in bands.
His introduction to rhythm and blues was at the new Ipswich Civic College.
Mr Coe, and a group of friends as The Jazzshades, played jazz at a concert to celebrate the opening of the Civic College.
The band supported The Cyril Davis Allstars, who had just lost two members including Mick Jagger who had formed the Rolling Stones, in that concert.
That band still included legends Dick Heckstall-Smith, Ginger Baker on drums, Jack Bruce on bass and Alexis Korner on guitars.
“Ginger Baker was mad even then,” Mr Coe said. “He had a see-through drum kit held together by string. I used Jack Bruce’s bass and my fingers started bleeding.”
In the 1960s with his own band, the Jazzshades, he played regular jazz nights at the Gardeners Arms in Ipswich.
He supported The Who at the Pier Pavilions, Felixstowe, in September 1966 with the Sullivan James Band.
He also played with Ipswich-based Geno Washington’s Ram Jam Band and with Le Blue, who wore berets and Beatle jackets.
Geno Washington was an American serviceman and collected various talented local musicians for his Ram Jam Band, which changed many times over the years.
“Geno lived in Wherstead Road and he introduced me to the music of James Brown,” Mr Coe said. “But if he had to work we lost our singer.”
Ram Jam gigs were always interesting, he said: “There must have been a 100 different line-ups. It was always chaotic.”
Somebody has sent Mr Coe an image of a poster for a gig he played in Spalding, Lincolnshire, in 1967 with Geno’s band.
It was called the Top Six line-up, in the Tulip Bulb Auction Hall, and it featured The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band, Pink Floyd, Move and Zoot Money And His Big Roll Band.
As a musician based in London in the 60s he did various jobs between gigs, including DJ-ing at clubs and working as a croupier. He auditioned for the BBC and was offered a job on Radio 1.
“But I was a musician,” Mr Coe said. “I turned it down to go with a band to Greece. To me playing music was more important than radio.” Now the Jazzshades’ name is back, although Tony is the only original member and there is a changing line-up.
“The name is 50 years old,” he said. “We have played a number of local venues including at the gallery for exhibition openings.
“We do the Waterfront restaurants and will be going out on the barge Victor during the summer months. And we have a show at St Peter’s By the Waterfront on April 25.”
For that gig it will be Helen Abbey on vocals, George Double on drums, Mr Coe on double bass and Matt Keene on keyboards.