John Coates Jr

John Francis Coates Jr., born February 17, 1938 and died November 22, 2017, was an American jazz composer, arranger, and pianist. For more than 50 years, he performed regularly at the Deer Head Inn as well as the Celebration of the Arts In the Pocono Mountains. Coates was born in Trenton and went to Ewing High School. His father was a professional musician and bandleader and his mother was an actress and dancer. At age 8, he began formal studies every Thursday, travelling from Trenton to New York City with Urana Clarke of the Mannes College of Music. He was on full scholarship. His early influences can be credited to his listening to Symphony Sid’s AM radio. John played clarinet on Wednesdays from the age of 11-14 with his father at the Trenton YMCA dancing hall night. There he learned how to improvise and play the clarinet. Around age 12, his father started teaching him jazz piano. Jack Welgund (his father’s student) influenced Coates, and he convinced him to join the Trenton musicians union at 12. He was already playing gigs two nights a week at age 14 and on weekends as well. He was 16 when he was asked to perform 6 nights per week at the Deer Head Inn. There he lived with Bob and Fey and shared dinner with them. Savoy Records first discovered him at the Deer Head in that summer. His senior year at high school saw him record Portrait with Wendell Marshall as bassist and Kenny Clarke as drummer. Rudy Van Gelder produced it for Savoy Records. In support of the album, he appeared on the Steve Allen, Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin TV programs. He toured the country with Charlie Ventura from 1956 to 1958, playing clubs such as Birdland and Small’s Paradise. John played with Barry Miles and other college musicians like Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, Woody Shaw and Harry Leahey. In 1962, he graduated from Rutgers University with a degree on romance languages. John graduated from Rutgers University in 1962. He returned to the Deer Head, where he performed six nights per week, four as a solo player and two as a bandleader. He was hired by Shawnee Press to be an editor and arranger. He started to rotate summers at Henderson’s Club 50 and winters at Henderson’s Club 50. There he also had a 6 nights per week gig. He played at Henderson’s with Clark Terry, Coleman Hawkins and Marvin Stamm, as well as Doc Severinsen, Doc Woods, Marvin Stamm, Bill Watrous, and Doc Severinsen. John moved to Mountain Lake in New Jersey in 1966. He began a 9-5 job at Shawnee Press, editing during the day and arranging on a royalty basis. Keith Jarrett would also occasionally sit in on his arrangements. In 1977, he quit Shawnee’s full-time job but continued to do occasional arrangement and composition work for the press (including choral works). His arrangement of “Amazing Grace”, which has sold over 750,000 copies, is still one of the best-selling arrangements at the publishing house. John has recorded nine albums for Japanese record label Omnisound since 1974. He also recorded live albums at Northampton Community College and the Deer Head. He toured briefly after those records with Paul Langosch, his bassist. John started recording with Pacific St Records in 1993, and he also recorded two albums with Phil Woods. John promoted the albums at many venues, including Blues Alley in Washington DC. In the late 1990s, Coates was homeless and tried suicide. He then moved to Coney Island, where he began playing around 2000. In 1961, he married Lisa Haines. The couple split in 1963 and remarried in 2012. Coates’ second marriage to Haines was his fourth. Coates was primarily a pianist but occasionally also played clarinet and vibraphone. From Wikipedia

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