Jazz musicians are not noted for staying in the same place for long. But pianist John Coates Jr. has been a fixture at the Deer Head Inn, Delaware Water Gap, Pa., since graduating from Rutgers University in 1962. Despite his isolation in the small town in the Poconos, his extraordinary talent has become widely known through several albums he has recorded for the Omnisound label, and he has recently played major cities in this country and toured Japan. He will perform Wednesday through Sunday at the Maryland Inn in Annapolis, with bassist Paul Langosch.
Jazz training usually starts early in life. Coates' history is a case in point. His father, a jazz pianist, kept music going at home much of the time, either his own or records of, for example, Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson or Mel Powell. "I can't recall ever not having paid attention to music," Coates says.
At the age of 3 he was beginning to pick out on the piano what he was hearing and at 5 had begun to write music. At 7 he earned a scholarship to the Mann's Music School in New York. While still a high school student in Trenton, N.J., he recorded an album with pioneering bebop drummer Kenny Clarke and upon graduation he went on the road with star saxophonist Charlie Ventura for two years. Of his long residence at the Deer Head he says: "I've always felt that I've been able to move forward there, so I have no plans of leaving, but I have been traveling a bit more."