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A Hero of Our Own

Tim CoakelyJazz historian and WAMC radio personality Tim Coakley is the 2013 local recipient of the Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Hero award, which was presented at Robb Alley as part of the Schenectady Musical Union’s Jazz Appreciation Month event on April 14, 2013.

He has been on the air (Saturday nights at 11 pm) for more than 25 years, all the while (and since 1978) having a career as copy editor of Schenectady’s Daily Gazette and sustained traditional jazz in New York’s Capital District as a drummer supporting a host of local and touring talents. Tim is also president of A Place for Jazz, a nonprofit, all-volunteer group founded by Butch Conn that presents a concert series each fall in Schenectady. It was this group that nominated him for this award. One of the APFJ board members, radio host Bill McCann, was the award recipient last year and will be this year’s presenter. Tim is also a board member of Swingtime Jazz Society.

Born in Utica, New York, Tim grew up listening to the best of the area’s musicians, including tenor saxophonist J.R. Monterose, trumpeter Sal Amico, bassist Sam Mancuso and drummer Ronnie Zito. Coakley listened especially raptly to the local drummers. Mostly self-taught, his first gig was at Utica College on a set of borrowed drums, and thereafter he began playing throughout Utica, often with tenor saxophonist Chick Esposito.

In 1974 he moved to Schenectady, and was asked by promoter Bob Rosenblum to join the rhythm section of swing trumpeter Doc Cheatham. His experiences with Cheatham led to appearances with tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate, pianist Dill Jones and trombonist Vic Dickinson, performances at the Van Dyck Restaurant in Schenectady with guitarist Herb Ellis, and engagements with pianist Benny Harris.

In the later ‘70s he joined reeds player Skip Parsons and his Riverboat Jazz Band, with whom he still works. Since then he’s had freelance jobs with trumpeter Mike Canonico, guitarist Jack Fragomeni, tenor saxophonist Leo Russo and a score of others, and led a trio with Skip Parsons and Rennie Crain which has played at Leesa’s, the Glen Sanders Mansion and Jazz on Jay Street in Schenectady, Savannah’s in Albany and 9 Maple in Saratoga Springs.


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