British jazz mourns a modest great, 88

British jazz mourns a modest great, 88


norman lebrecht

March 19, 2023

The saxophonist, clarinettist and composer Tony Coe died quietly this week.

He is remembered for  many things – as co-writer of the Pink Panther theme, for duets with the classical clarinet player Alan Hacker and for a legendary 1987 ECM album Somewhere Called Home.

Obituary here.

Julian Nicholas writes: ‘His clarinet playing is unsurpassed in my view – my classical teachers Nick Bucknall and Alan Hacker and he were all about promoting the Germanic, woodier sound on clarinet, rather than the vibby, reedy French sound. On tenor his Gonsalvian sound belied the sophistication of his Berg/Debussy harmonic palette. He gave me the tenor mouthpiece I used til about 2010 and got me started on soprano. He was a total one-off and I will always remember him for his artistic breadth and generosity, plus his propensity to dig his heels in on certain issues!!!!’


  • Larry says:

    A terrific musician, he played with the great Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland big band, if memory serves.

    Didn’t Henry Mancini write “The Pink Panther?”

    • Ruben Greenberg says:

      Larry, yes, you’re right. Tony did a lot of studio work and is on the the film scores of Mancini, Michel Legrand, Wladimir Cosma…

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    Tony was an incredible musician; so versatile. There was nothing he couldn’t do. I will miss our almost weekly chats so much, Tony. He composed quite a bit of Classical music, influenced largely by Alban Berg and Debussy. It deserves playing. Rest in blessed peace, Tony.

  • Tommy Pearson says:

    Tony was indeed known for many things, but “co-writing the Pink Panther theme” was certainly not one of them!! That was all Mancini.

  • Robin Blick says:

    Genuine jazz genius.