MOE KOFFMAN – Jazz Flutist, Saxophonist, Composer/Arranger

Moe Koffman

(Dec. 28, 1928 – Mar. 28, 2001)


With this story, the CJR begins a regular series, ‘On the Record,’ profiling Jewish Canadian musicians of note.

Who can ever forget the “Swinging Shepherd Blues” and seeing Moe Koffman live, often with other performers he booked, at George’s Spaghetti House on Dundas St. East.  

Toronto-born, to Jewish immigrants from Poland, Moe Koffman first studied violin at the Royal Conservatory of Music but switched instruments, quit school and moved to the United States in 1950, playing with the Jimmy Dorsey and Sonny Dunham big bands. 

He returned to Toronto in 1955, formed a quartet and scored the hit that established his repultation as a flutist. In the 1970s, he recorded several albums of works by various classical composers and guested with many symphony orchestras across Canada. In the ‘80s, he performed with Dizzy Gillespie and Peter Appleyard, while still fronting the Moe Koffman Quintet, and was a longtime member of the late Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass. 

Moe Koffman
Photo credit: CBC News

An in-demand session musician, he played in numerous commercials and jingles, as well as on background music on film and television soundtracks. From 1950 to 1990, most of his work was done a rare bass flute.  His discography includes 29 LPs and two singles, with an additional LP highlight as a member of the Ron Collier Orchestra featuring Duke Ellington.

On the New York-based Jubilee label, Koffman  recorded “Cool And Hot Sax” in 1957, becoming one of the first Canadian jazz musicians to record a full length album.

Koffman was a contemporary of my late Uncle Moe Eisenstadt, also a sax-clarinetist whose steady gig for the last 20 years of his life was at the O’Keefe Centre. I remember the advice he gave my Uncle Moe: “Commercials and jingles – that’s the future if you really want to make a buck in the music biz.”

David Eisenstadt
David Eisenstadt

David Eisenstadt is founding partner of and a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary