“I hereby proclaim April 15th Tim Coakley day here in Schenectady,” said Schenectady city Mayor Gary McCarthy as he made a proclamation honoring Coakley for his contributions to the local jazz scene.
Coakley is a local jazz drummer who regularly plays with Skip Parsons’ Riverboat Jazz Band, but his contributions go far beyond his own musicianship. He is also president of Schenectady jazz organization A Place for Jazz, a WAMC radio DJ who has spun jazz every Saturday night for more than 20 years, and a journalist who’s written live music reviews for The Daily Gazette for decades. Tim was nominated by his peers as a venerable “Jazz Hero” and was presented with an award of the same name.
The Jazz Hero award is part of the Jazz Journalists Association’s “Jazz April” events. April has been deemed Jazz Appreciation Month, and this is just one organization’s way of recognizing the passion and work that exceptional individuals have dedicated to the arts.
The director of development for the JJA and creator of the Jazz Hero award series, Susan Brink, took center stage to read a letter from the president of the JJA, Howard Mandel. The letter congratulated Coakley on his “induction into the select ranks of Jazz Heroes.” It went on to reiterate what everyone who knows Tim Coakley is already aware of. His “radio shows have maintained the music on the airwaves,” his “drumming has bridged the rhythm of tradition and our times,” and his service with “A Place For Jazz has helped create stages where there are too few.”
The physical award was presented by WCDB jazz DJ Bill McCann, who was himself a recipient of the Jazz Hero award last year. “What comes to mind when I think of Tim Coakley?” McCann asked. “Switzerland,” he cryptically answered. He then went on to describe Coakley through a series of similes that included Swiss watches, Swiss chocolate, the Swiss Alps, and the Swiss position of neutrality. Suffice to say that Coakley’s time is precise, his licks are tasty, and he is a benevolent leader. He is also a humble cat.
“If we didn’t have the musicians then we wouldn’t have any jazz to listen to. If we didn’t have the audience then we would have no one to listen to the music,” Coakley said. “I accept this honor for myself, and also for everybody else.”
Trumpeter Dylan Canterbury’s Quintet opened this phenomenal day of music and community spirit in downtown Schenectady with a set of originals like Canterbury’s “Going Places” that featured saxophonist Brian Patneaude on an instrument he seldom plays—the soprano sax. Every part of this arrangement seemed somewhat obscure on its own, but all together the pieces congealed into a delectable stew. Canterbury’s shining moment came during a reimagining of Duke Pearson’s ballad “You Know I Care” that opened with a gorgeous piano intro by Rob Lindquist. The ceremony honoring Coakley followed the first set of music, and Keith Pray’s Soul Jazz Revival followed the ceremony. The two musical groups were meant to convey two sides of the jazz coin, as Canterbury’s group explored the world of straight ahead, and Pray’s delved into funk, soul, and even smooth with Pray’s Grover Washington-esque original “When She Smiles.”
This day was about Coakley, Canterbury and Pray, but at the heart of it all was the Capital District jazz family, and nothing says community like a jam session. Each group made good by inviting musically inclined members of the audience to get up at the end of each set and swing their musical axe.