Saxophone player, clarinetist, composer, Gabriele Coen first studied music at the Scuola di Musica Popolare in Rome’s Testaccio quarter. Next, he frequented several seminars at Siena Jazz and frequently interacted with important saxophone players (Steve Lacy, Dave Liebman) to finally complete his studies with a degree in Political Science and a diploma in saxophone from the Morlacchi Conservatory of Perugia.
Since the mid-nineties Coen has served as founder and leader of “Kleroym,” which is to this day the most important Italian Klezmer groups. With them, he has become one of the greatest promoters of Jewish folk music in Europe, re-interpreted in a jazz style.
From a family of musicians – his father Massimo Coen was one of the most important violinists in contemporary music – Gabriele was also trained to perform the contemporary saxophone repertoire of the string quartet, “I Solisti di Roma” (The Roman Soloists).
His experience and journey with Klezroym from their intense recording and performing activities in Italy and Europe, (five albums released by CNI: “Klezroym” (1998), “Scenì” (2000), “Yankele nel ghetto” (2002), “Klezroym” (2003), “Venticinqueaprile” (2006), as well as their diverse, important evolutions, including the soundtrack of Emanuele Crialese‘s debut film Once We Were Strangers (1997), the theatrical “Saccarina Cinque al Soldo” written by and starring Ascanio Celestini (2001), three television seasons as the in-house band for the program Dove Osano le Qualie (starting in 2002) with Antonello Dose and Marco Presta, lead to Coen’s solo activities and the founding in 2004 of the quartet “Gabriele Coen – Atlante sonoro” [Gabriele Coen – Atlas of Sound] (Lussu, Loddo, Caponi) with which he released two albums, Duende (2004) and Alhambra (2006), once again for the CNI label.
With these two works, Coen presented the groundbreaking and personal encounter of Jazz with World Music, undertaking a 360-degree journey in the fusion of various musical traditions – Jewish, Mediterranean, Balkan, and contemporary Jazz – combining the production of original works with the re-interpretation with traditional material.
Simultaneously, Gabriele increased his intense didactic and instructional activities, which saw one of its most important moments in the publication of the essay, “Klezmer, Jewish folk music from the shtetle to John Zorn,” published in 2000 by Castelvecchi and then subsequently in the publication of “Wandering Music. From Folk to Jazz: Klezmer and Yiddish Music,” published in 2009 by Stampa Alternative; both articles were co-written with Isotta Toso.
At the same time, he diversified his productions, working as composer and performer for dance (Fuciarelli, Patimo), in television (RAI Educational, La Grande Storia, Geo&Geo), for the theater (Scaparro and Lisa Ferlazzo Natoli) with the original production of “L’Alfiere” for the Roccella Jonica Jazz Festival (2005) and “La Casa d’Argilla” for the Teatro Due Foundation Festival of Parma (2006), and finally for film, co-writing with Mario Rivera the soundtracks of the films Notturno Bus, by Davide Marengo (2007), and Scontro di civiltà per un ascensore a piazza Vittorio (Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio) by Isotta Toso (2010). Coen also collaborated with Mario Rivera in the musical theatre production of “Satyricon” by Renado Giordano with Michele Placido and Giorgio Albertazzi (2007).
In 2005, Coen founded the “Gabriele Coen Jewish Experience” quintet (Lussu, Berg, Loddo, Caponi). They released their first album, Golem, in 2009 for the Alfamusic label, distributed by Egea. With the quintet, Gabriele reached a new expressive maturity in proposing Jewish music in Jazz style, leading up to his electrifying encounter with John Zorn in New York in the summer of 2010 and his entrance into the ranks of Tzadik, Zorn’s prestigious independent label, which produced Awakening (2010). Coen’s is the first Italian ensemble to release an album for Tzadik, which over the years has become an important point of reference for contemporary Jazz, in the “Radical Jewish Culture” series that John Zorn dedicated to the best expressions of Jewish Music at the international level. Of Gabriele Coen and his project, John Zorn wrote: “Gabriele Coen is one of the most exciting composers and performers, able to combine a profound knowledge of and sincere respect for tradition with exceptional capacity for intuitive communication and imaginative sensibility. [He is] avant-garde and at the same time firmly rooted in tradition; the “Jewish Experience” project expresses passion, integrity and impeccable interpretational art.” Awakening participated in the most important Jazz events in Italy as well as in New York at a special event at The Stone, Zorn’s nightclub, where the most important members of the American and International musical avant-garde perform regularly.
Meanwhile, Gabriele continued his concert and performance activities with his “Piccola Banda Ikona” (Saletti, Eramo Rivera) and began his collaboration with Giovanni Palombo, Benny Penazzi and Andrea Piccioni in the “Camera Ensemble” project with which he released the album of the same name under the Helikonia label (2010). He also collaborated with numerous other performers, among whom Elisabetta Antonini and Alessandro Gwis. He continued his theater collaborations with Mariangela Melato and Michele Placido in “Odio e Amo. Spoon River” (2008), with Dino and Filippo Gentili in “Scintille,” based on the novel of the same name by Gad Lerner (2010), with Stefano Cioffi in “Queste mani vengono con me,” starring Ennio Fantastichini (2010) and “La Torta in Cielo” with Galatea Ranzi (2012).
Coen’s latest album “Yiddish Melodies in Jazz, “was released in January 2013 for John Zorn’s record label, Tzadik, once again for the “Radical Jewish Culture” series.