Remembering the jazz mentor

Last week, we wrote about a benefit tribute night for Jimmy Coe. He left this life last Thursday, but his legacy still goes on and the tribute for Jimmy Coe and his wife Delores will still take place: Friday, March 5, at the Madame Walker Theatre Center.  -The tenors of Indiana Avenue: “Pookie” Johnson (left) and David Young (standing) with the late Jimmy Coe.-  The little guy with the big, mellow-toned, bluesy sax sound did more in music than most of us were aware. He set extremely high standards for himself, no matter what genre of music he played. He performed in a wide variety of musical settings throughout his career.

A recently discovered Web site with “The Jimmy Coe Discography” by three men — Robert L. Campbell, Dan Kochakian and Armin Büttner — dedicated to following Coe’s career unearths a treasure of long-forgotten recording sessions that document a rich career in jazz, R&B and pop music from the ’50s to 2002. There are also historically rich biographical interviews with Coe about his career, including details of all of his recording sessions. Go to

The Jimmy Coe I knew since the glory days of Indiana Avenue was a totally committed and passionate artist. To say he was a perfectionist about music would be an understatement. The musicians that he influenced, taught and mentored felt the same way about Coe and the impact he had on their careers as jazz musicians.

Two of Coe’s fellow tenor saxophonists from the Indiana Avenue jazz scene remember what he meant to them. Alonzo “Pookie” Johnson reflected on his relationship with Coe: “Jimmy was like a surrogate father to me. We worked together from the ’50s. He took me out on the road and he sent me to school. We were at Butler University together and I have been in his Indianapolis band for the last 50 years. He was a hell of a musician and a friend to everybody and highly respected by musicians all over the world he came in contact with.”

Former Duke Ellington saxophonist David Young, who is also a member of the Coe Big Band, started his career under Coe’s tutoring. “I have been following Jimmy around since I was a kid. He influenced me in many ways. He set my musical standard higher than it had been with his professionalism.”

Jazz Kitchen owner and trumpeter David Allee also played in the Jimmy Coe Big Band. “Jimmy Coe has always been there through all of my music career. The biggest thing he taught me was always have a passion for the music. His passion was the overriding factor. He was very encouraging and supportive — I say that for myself and numerous musicians in this city. I feel like his legacy is mainly as a mentor; he wouldn’t be afraid to tell you the truth and he was a guy who knew the truth.”

The tribute to honor the Dean of Indiana Avenue Jazz and his wife Delores will happen March 5 in the fourth floor ballroom of the Madame Walker Theatre Center. The tribute starts at 6 p.m., featuring local and some national artists and guests. Jimmy’s Jam Session — a thing he loved to play in — will get underway about 10 p.m. All of the proceeds of a $15 ticket at the door go to the Coe family. An optional dinner buffet will be available for $10. Jimmy Coe recently told me he had never missed a gig, and he won’t miss this one.

Jazz happenings Downtown

The Chatterbox, 435 Mass. Ave., saxophonist Rob Dixon’s Quartet returns Friday, March 5 followed by pianist/vocalist Jeff Deherdt’s Quartet Saturday, March 6. Music both nights runs 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Circle City Bar & Grille, 350 W. Maryland St. in the Marriott Downtown, will feature the cool vocal stylings of Betheny Dunlap with Neapolitan featuring Glenn Dunlap on keyboards and special guests Charlie Smith on guitar, Frank Smith on bass and Adam White on drums performing 7 to 11 p.m.


The Jazz Kitchen, 54th Street and College Avenue, presents the highly acclaimed eclectic guitarist Doug Wamble Friday, March 5. Award-winning vocalist Cynthia Layne brings her passionate sound in Saturday, March 6. Sets each night are 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. with a cover charge.

Sullivan’s Steakhouse, 3316 E. 86th St., Keystone at the Crossing, will feature the trio of Claude Sifferlen on piano, Joe Deal on bass and Steve Davis on drums Friday, March 5 playing 5:30 to 11:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 6 playing 5 to 11 p.m.

Southside At Pauly’s Italian Restaurant, Southport Road and Highway 3, Notemen Jazz Combo plays Wednesday, March 3, 6:30 to 9 p.m. and Friday March 5, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Larry Michael’s Jazz performs Saturday, March 6 from 7 to 10 p.m.


The Hancock Public Library kicks off its “Music with Our Friends” of free concerts that run March through May with jazz legends Aletra and Virtue Hampton, Pookie Johnson and Larry Clark Wednesday, March 3 at 7 p.m. in the main library.

Chuck Workman is the producer/ host of the Sunday Morning Jazz Show at 107.9 WTPI.