Spotlight on Tony Kofi


Photograph: Mark Joyce

This week at Jazz re:freshed we will be hosting a true heavy hitter of the UK Jazz scene, Tony Kofi. So we thought it only right to shine the spotlight in his direction and give you some background on this stalwart of the scene.

1966, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England, born to Ghanaian parents, Kofi became interested in music and in his teens taught himself to play the alto saxophone. Seeing an advertisement for a series of free jazz workshops being run by Leicester-based drummer Nick Hislam sparked his interest in jazz. Kofi studied intensively, eventually winning a full-time scholarship to the Berklee College Of Music, which he attended from 1988-90 and where his tutors included Billy Pierce, Donald Byrd, Ernie Watts, and Ralph Moore. Back in the UK in 1991, Kofi played with the Jazz Warriors and Gary Crosby’s Nu-troup. Through the rest of the 90s Kofi played with numerous jazz luminaries, including Julian Argüelles, Claude Deppa, Billy Higgins, Andrew Hill, Branford Marsalis, David Murray, Courtney Pine, Tim Richards, Lonnie Smith and Us3. In addition to alto, Kofi became proficient on baritone and soprano saxophones. In the early 00s, he teamed up with trumpeter Byron Wallen for various projects including a quartet, Indigo, which pays tribute to past masters of the baritone saxophone. With Wallen, Kofi has set up jazz workshops and tutorials and the pair also collaborated on composing and writing a jazz theory book. Over the years since meeting James Weaver, a friend of Thelonious Monk, Kofi developed a deep and passionate love for Monk’s music and this formed the base for several departures. He formed a quartet, drawing its repertoire from Monk’s compositions, and at 2003’s London Jazz Festival 70 such pieces were performed in a marathon six-hour set. Kofi’s regular quartet sidemen include pianist Jonathan Gee, bass player Ben Hazleton, drummer Winston Clifford, sometimes adding vibraphonist Orphy Robinson. Kofi’s Monk: All Is Know was nominated as Jazz Album Of The Year in the 2005 BBC Jazz Awards and drew ecstatic reviews from the jazz press. Kofi has also been a member of Lucky Ranku’s African All Stars, and has led his own 10-piece band, the Afro Jazz Family.

After touring his future passed trio extensively during 2006/2007 Tony decided to give his trio a break and concentrate on other projects, but due to public demand he’s re grouped his Future Passed Trio featuring the amazing Swedish Hammond organist Anders Olinder and the fire breathing Winston Clifford on drums.

The trio will be performing at Jazz re:freshed this Thursday, more info here.

Visit Tony Kofi’s official Website.



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