Morris “Moe” Koffman, OC (28 December 1928 – 28 March 2001) was a Canadian jazz saxophonist and flautist, as well as composer and arranger. During a career spanning from the 1950s to the 2000s, Koffman was one of Canada’s most prolific musicians, working variously in clubs and sessions and releasing 30 albums.
With his 1957 record Cool and Hot Sax on the New York-based Jubilee label, Koffman became one of the first Canadian jazz musicians to record a full-length album.
Koffman was also a long-time member of Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass.
Koffman was born in Toronto to Jewish immigrants from Poland. His parents operated a variety store. At the age of nine he began his musical studies in his native city, studying violin. He studied with Gordon Delamont, and later attended the Toronto Conservatory of Music, now the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto, where he was a student of Samuel Dolin.
Koffman dropped out of school when he found work performing in dance bands. In 1950, he moved to the United States, where he played with big bands including those of Sonny Dunham and Jimmy Dorsey. In 1955, he returned to Toronto where he formed a quartet and later a quintet. He recorded Swinging Shepherd Blues in 1957 which helped establish his reputation as a flautist. “Swinging Shepherd Blues” was a hit in the United States, reaching #38 on the Billboard pop chart and #23 on the UK Singles Chart.
Koffman was inspired by Rahsaan Roland Kirk to play multiple instruments at once; and had a modified set of straps to hold a tenor and an alto saxophone so that he could put forward incredible chords and improvise at the same time. One of the more famous session musicians in Toronto, he appeared in countless commercials, background music, and film and TV soundtracks. Most work on bass flute in Canadian soundtracks from 1950 to 1990 in Toronto sessions was done by Koffman on this rare instrument. Koffman was also an exponent of circular breathing techniques for his large volumes of sound, and joined fellow Canadian Maynard Ferguson and new age multi-instrumentalist musician Ron Allen in this talent.
During the 1970s, Koffman recorded several albums with arrangements of works by classical composers including Bach, Mozart and Vivaldi. The albums were released by GRT Canada and later by Universal. He also was a guest performer with a number of symphony orchestras across Canada.
He performed with Dizzy Gillespie and Peter Appleyard during the 1980s, as well as continuing to front the Moe Koffman Quintet. He often performed with Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass. From 1956 to 1990, Koffman booked performers for George’s Spaghetti House in Toronto, where he performed weekly. His compositions “Curried Soul” and “Koff Drops” have been used as the opening and closing themes respectively for the CBC radio show As It Happens since 1972.
He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1993 and inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1997.
Koffman was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2000, and died of cancer in Orangeville, Ontario in 2001 at the age of 72. In 2002, Moe Koffman was a MasterWorks honouree by the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada.
Some of Koffman’s music for Duke Street Records was unreleased at the time of his death. Music for the Night was released and re-issued in 2007, and Devil’s Brew was re-issued in 2009. (wikipedia)
Canadian Koffman made a great deal of really ordinary classical-themed music which I don’t want to call fusion, e.g. the album Moe Koffman Plays Bach which came out in the early 70s, then went all-out critically-unacclaimed bonkers with advanced modern composition and extreme, and I mean extreme music with orchestra and fusionary visions in the 1974 opus Solar Explorations. The music is very similar to Carlos Franzetti but far more out there, way out into the intergalactic space actually way past the orbit of ex-planet Pluto and even the Oort cloud. And the vacuum of critical acceptance must have been just so rewarding… explaining perhaps why this was his only really experimental album. (http://progressreview.blogspot.com)
Eugene Amaro (saxophone)
Guido Basso (trumpet)
Arnie Chycoski (trumpet)
Terry Clarke (drums)
Michael Craden (percussion)
Sonny Greenwich (guitar)
Keith Jollimore (saxophone)
Moe Koffman (flute, saxophone)
Bob Livingston (trombone)
Rob McConnell (tombone)
Ian McDougall (trombone)
Doug Riley (keyboards)
Fred Stone (trumpet)
Don Thompson (bass, piano on 02., 05. + 09.)
Arnie Chycoski (trumpet on 03., 06.)
Rick Homme (bass on 04., 05., 08. + 09.)
Russ Little (trombone on 03.)
Claude Ranger (drums on 02., 03., 06. + 09.)
David Rosenboom (synthesizer on 07., violin on 08.)
Peter Schenkman (cello on 08.)
Al Stanwyck (trumpet on 03.)
01. Saturn (Wilkins) 8.40
02. Earth (Riley) 11.06
03. Uranus (Stone) 7.39
04. Neptune (Koffman) 8.21
05. Mars (Riley) 6.40
06. Jupiter (Collier) 12.32
07. Venus (Koffman) 8.10
08. Pluto (Thompson) 6.16
09. Mercury (Thompson) 14.23