Tony Roe came to life in Amsterdam at the same time that the first hip-hop record was released: 1979. His early attempts to reach the piano keys and to pluck at the huge upright bass hidden in the laundry room made his parents aware of his interest in music. At home music was always around, mostly classical, but also Latin, since his mother’s roots lie in the Caribbean.
He got his first music lessons at age five from an adolescent neighbor; a talented and dedicated music student who took him to the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam and started teaching him music theory at the age of eight. Other neighbors complained about sound leakage and insisted that he stop using the sustain pedal. He hasn’t used it since.
A trip to visit relatives in Curacao (one of the Netherlands Antilles) in his early teens confronted him with a completely different kind of music which turned his ideas about music upside down. Armed with huge speakers, his cousin showed him what hardcore reggae is all about – how ladies should dance, and how men should stand still and look cool.
Back home he found a radio show called Villa 65 and became a big fan of hip-hop and reggae. He filled his parental home with loud beats, and turned dinner into a completely new, head-nodding experience. His family turned out to be “soundproof” and survived – he even turned his father into a hip-hop expert and sent him on vinyl hunting missions during business trips abroad.
Never happy to sit still for longer than 2 minutes and listen to teachers, Tony was very glad to finish high school and enrolled at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. There he studied classical piano with Rian de Waal, who remains an important person in his musical career.
His restless nature and broad interest caused him to dive into other studies as well. He attended lectures about Industrial Design at the Technical University in Delft, but soon found himself unhappy in a world consisting of men wearing thick glasses and blue shirts. Working as a DJ was quite limited in a city where people only wanted to hear Abba, so he ambitiously tried to become a scratch DJ in live bands. Soon his attention turned to the limited but amazing three-finger technique of a fellow jazz keyboard player, who inspired him to start improvising at the piano.
It didn’t take long before he moved to Amsterdam where he immersed himself in the world of jazz piano at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. There he studied with Karel Boehlee, Kris Goessens and Rob van Bavel and attended masterclasses from pianists such as Bill Carothers, Barry Harris, John Taylor and Larry Goldings. In New York he had lessons from Ari Hoenig and Jason Moran. He received his master’s degree at the Conservatory of Amsterdam in 2009 with “10 with honors”. Since September 2010 Tony is enrolled in the doctoral program in musical arts – docARTES – running at the Orpheus Institute in Gent, Belgium.
Always fascinated by buttons and LEDs, he started studying Music Technology in Hilversum, but eventually decided to build his own studio instead. Everything in his house had to make room for the instruments and soon it looked like a cockpit where he could experiment with fellow freaks. Since then, he tries to combine his latin, hip-hop, electronic and (contemporary) classical roots by merging them into a rare form of music, little appreciated by purists. Driven by a childish fantasy, he aims to make a radical change in music.
He shares the stage with many different artists, gaining experience in many styles: from playing superfluous notes in pop-songs, and implementing montunos in odd meter Balkan music (while pretending to keep the beat), to creating multiple excuses for showing up late at rehearsals, and attempting to appear cool to the ladies while producing horrible faces while playing melodica.
In the serious world of music, Tony has played several concerts with the Asko Schoenberg Ensemble in 2008. Works of contemporary composers like Klas Torstensson’s Urban songs (directed by Bas Wiegers) and Louis Andriessens monsterproject ‘De Materie’, directed by Reinbert de Leeuw, performed in the Concertgebouw van Amsterdam, De Doelen Rotterdam and Muziekgebouw aan het IJ.
Other groups that are lucky enough to have experienced his musical presence and bad jokes include Room Eleven, Modern Balkan Jazz Orchestra, Bobby Petrov Sextet, Berlansky, and Medicamento.
Besides playing at every local theatre in the Lowlands from Ottersum to Veenendaal (during Room Eleven’s theatre tour), Tony also violates the grand pianos of all the major venues like Paradiso, Het Paard, Lantaren-Venster and Koninklijk Theater Carré. His colorful blouses and firm playing are equally appreciated internationally, from Tokyo and Vienna to Montréal and Bruxelles. You can also spot this little man at the piano at festivals like North Sea Jazz, Montréal Jazz Festival, and Smolyan Jazz Festival (Bulgaria).