John Coates Jr.

The Jazz Piano of John Coates, Jr.

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The Jazz Piano of John Coates, Jr. Review

by Ken Dryden

Pianist John Coates is best known to those who attended his performances at the Deer Head Inn in the tiny village of Delaware Water Gap, PA, over a 25-year period (Phil Woods and Keith Jarrett are among his biggest champions). Unfortunately, most jazz fans have overlooked his works, since Coates waited until 1974 to make this record following his recording debut as a leader for Savoy in 1955, and most of his releases have been on small independent labels. This trio date with bassist DeWitt Kay and drummer Glen Davis was recorded at Northampton Community College, and though there were no rehearsals, the musicians work well together in a set dominated by Coates' richly textured compositions. Portions of his "A Simple Waltz" seem rooted in classical music, with a moody quality often associated with Bill Evans. His solo take of the Beatles' "Yesterday" is a stunning, very imaginative arrangement, and his rollicking run through Joe Sullivan's "Little Rock Getaway" is also a treat. The audience must have been in awe of Coates or incredibly well disciplined, as no reaction is heard until the end of the final track. Just two of the LP's six selections have been reissued on his Pacific St. CD compilation The Omnisound Years, but most fans will quickly find themselves searching for the complete original discs on the long-defunct Omnisound label so they don't miss out on anything this brilliant musician has to say musically.

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