Dr. Keller Coker
A native Oregonian, Keller Coker is an accomplished performer, producer and musical scholar. He began playing trombone at the age of fourteen, and immediately took to performing as a jazz and classical trombone player. His focus turned to jazz and popular styles in the 1980s and he has worked with such notable pop musicians and ensembles as The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Platters, America, Little Anthony and the Imperials, The Kingsmen, The Surfaris, The Coasters, The Drifters, The Boxtops, Al Jardine (of the Beach Boys), Jose Feliciano, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, Bobby Vinton and has also performed with such notable jazz figures as The Duke Ellington Orchestra, The Clayton/Hamilton Big Band, The Jack Sheldon Big Band, The Fabulous Dorsey Orchestra, The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Freddie Hubbard, Milcho Leviev, Vince Mendoza, Glenn Moore, Bill Watrous, Bobby Bradford, Mel Brown, Dan Balmer, and Snooky Young.
In 1990, while teaching and performing jazz at the University of Southern California, Coker became associated with legendary lutenist James Tyler, and became enamored with early music. His collaborations with Tyler coupled with his improvisational approach to the repertories of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque music has garnered him a reputation as an important performer of music from these periods. In 1994 he founded the Ensemble de' Medici whose recordings of renaissance and early baroque music continue to make an impact on the early music scene.
Since 1990, Coker has produced several recordings on various labels, including Sony Classical, Teal Creek, RCM, and Sierra. As a producer he has worked with many talented artists including the Los Angeles Master Chorale, The Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra, The Debussy Trio, Los Angeles Musica Viva, Gilles Apap and the Transylvanian Mountain Boys, Whirled Jazz, and his own Ensemble de' Medici. In 1994 he co-founded the RCM recording label.
Coker is currently a Professor of Music at Western Oregon University where he teaches music history, American vernacular performance and composition, and directs the Western Hemisphere Orchestra (WOU's Jazz & Popular Music Orchestra). In 2007 he founded the American Metropole Orchestra and as the music director has composed and conducted shows for Allen Toussaint, Martha Reeves, Lynn Anderson, Dave Frishberg, Lizz Wright, Sonny Turner (The Platters) and many others. He continues to regularly perform and record on trombone with Whirled News ("Coker produces some hat-over-the-bell effects that speak of Ellington's bands in a Weather Report context." Mark Corroto's review of Mukilteo, allaboutjazz.com (2001)). He is a commissioned composer for stage, television, and film, and a publisher of Renaissance and Baroque music editions. His commissions and grants include projects funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Council for the Arts, and Western Oregon University. He received the Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in Jazz Studies, and a Doctor of Musical Arts (Early Music Performance) degree from the University of Southern California.
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