George Coleman

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George Coleman
The George Coleman Quintet, 2012
The George Coleman Quintet, 2012
Background information
Birth nameGeorge Edward Coleman
Born (1935-03-08) March 8, 1935 (age 88)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
GenresJazz, hard bop, post-bop
Years active1950s–present
LabelsEvidence, Telarc, Theresa, Smoke Sessions

George Edward Coleman (born March 8, 1935) is an American jazz saxophonist known for his work with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock in the 1960s. In 2015, he was named an NEA Jazz Master.[1]

Early life[edit]

Coleman was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He was taught how to play the alto saxophone in his teens by his older brother Lucian Adams, inspired (like many jazz musicians of his generation) by Charlie Parker. Among his schoolmates were Harold Mabern, Booker Little, Frank Strozier, Hank Crawford, and Charles Lloyd.[2]

Later life and career[edit]

George Coleman at Keystone Korner, San Francisco CA 8/29/79

After working with Ray Charles, Coleman started working with B.B. King in 1953,[3] at which point he switched to tenor saxophone.[4] In 1956 Coleman moved to Chicago, along with Booker Little, where he worked with Gene Ammons and Johnny Griffin before joining Max Roach's quintet (1958–1959). Coleman recorded with organist Jimmy Smith on his album House Party (1957), along with Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Kenny Burrell, and Donald Bailey. Moving to New York City with Max Roach in that year, he went on to play with Slide Hampton (1959–1962), Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb, and Wild Bill Davis (1962), before joining Miles Davis' quintet in 1963–1964.[5]

His albums with Davis (and the rhythm section of Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Tony Williams (drums)) are Seven Steps to Heaven (1963), A Rare Home Town Appearance (1963), Côte Blues (1963), In Europe (1963), My Funny Valentine, and Four & More, both live recordings of a concert in Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City in February 1964. Shortly after this concert, Coleman left the band and was replaced by Wayne Shorter. Nevertheless, Davis retained a high opinion of Coleman's playing, stating that "George played everything almost perfectly...He was a hell of a musician." Coleman played with Lionel Hampton (1965–1966), also in 1965 on Chet Baker's The Prestige Sessions, with Kirk Lightsey, Herman Wright, and Roy Brooks.[6] Clark Terry, Horace Silver, Elvin Jones (1968), Shirley Scott (1972), Cedar Walton (1975), Charles Mingus (1977–1978), Ahmad Jamal (1994, 2000), and many others.

Coleman also appeared in the science-fiction film Freejack (1992), starring Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger, and Anthony Hopkins; and 1996's The Preacher's Wife, with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston.[7]

Coleman recorded into the 2000s. His CD as co-leader, Four Generations of Miles: A Live Tribute To Miles, with bassist Ron Carter, drummer Jimmy Cobb and guitarist Mike Stern was released on Chesky Records in October 2002, and it concentrates on the 1960s working repertoire of Miles Davis. Tracks include: "There Is No Greater Love", "All Blues", "On Green Dolphin Street", "Blue in Green", "81", "Freddie Freeloader", "My Funny Valentine", "If I Were a Bell", and "Oleo". He was featured on Joey DeFrancesco's 2006 release Organic Vibes, along with vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, Billboard's Top Jazz Album Chart, peaked to No. 17.[8]

Coleman was married to jazz organist Gloria Coleman.[9] They had two children, including jazz drummer George Coleman Jr., and divorced.[9]

He was named an NEA Jazz Master and to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2015, and received a brass note on the Beale Street Brass Notes Walk of Fame.[10]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Notes
1977 Meditation Timeless Duo, with Tete Montoliu (piano)
1977 Revival Catalyst; Affinity Octet; released as Big George in Europe
1978 Amsterdam After Dark Timeless Quartet, with Hilton Ruiz (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)
1979 Playing Changes Jazz House In concert at Ronnie Scott's: Quartet, with Hilton Ruiz (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)
1985 Manhattan Panorama Theresa; Evidence Quartet, with Harold Mabern (piano), Jamil Nasser (bass), Idris Muhammad (drums); in concert live at the Village Vanguard
1989 At Yoshi's Theresa; Evidence Quartet, with Harold Mabern (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Alvin Queen (drums); in concert
1990 Convergence Triloka Duo, with Richie Beirach (piano)
1991 My Horns of Plenty Birdology/Verve; Birdology/Dreyfus Quartet, with Harold Mabern (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)
1995 Blues Inside Out Jazz House In concert at Ronnie Scott's
1996 Danger High Voltage Two & Four Octet, Harold Mabern (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Jim Rotondi (trumpet) Ned Otter (tenor), Gary Smulyan (baritone saxophone), Adam Brenner (alto saxophone), George Coleman Jr. (drums), with Daniel Sadownick (percussion) added on several tracks
1998 I Could Write a Book: The Music of Richard Rodgers Telarc Quartet, with Harold Mabern (piano), Jamil Nasser (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)
2002 Four Generations of Miles: A Live Tribute To Miles Chesky Quartet, with Mike Stern (guitar), Ron Carter (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums); in concert
2016 A Master Speaks Smoke Sessions Most tracks quartet, with Mike LeDonne (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass), George Coleman Jr. (drums); one track quintet, with Peter Bernstein (guitar) added
2019 The Quartet Smoke Sessions Quartet, Harold Mabern (piano), John Webber (bass) & Joe Farnsworth (drums)
2020 The George Coleman Quintet in Baltimore Reel To Reel Quintet, Albert Dailey (piano), Larry Ridley (bass), Danny Moore (Trumpet), Harold White (drums)
2023 George Coleman Live at Smalls Jazz Club Cellar Music Group Quartet, Spike Wilner (piano), Peter Washington (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums)

As sideman[edit]

With Chet Baker

With Roy Brooks

With Paul (PB) Brown

  • Paul Brown Quartet Meets The Three Tenors (Brownstone, 1998)

With Brian Charette

With Miles Davis

With Joey DeFrancesco

With Charles Earland

With Red Garland

With Slide Hampton

With Herbie Hancock

With Johnny Hartman

With Ahmad Jamal

With Elvin Jones

With Booker Little

With Harold Mabern

With Jack McDuff

With Charles Mingus

With Lee Morgan

With Idris Muhammad

With Don Patterson

With John Patton

With Nicholas Payton

  • Smoke Sessions (Smoke Sessions Records, 2021)

With Duke Pearson

With Max Roach

With Shirley Scott

  • Lean on Me (Cadet, 1972)
  • Queen Talk: Live at the Left Bank (Wienerworld/Cellar Live, 2023) - recorded 1972

With Jimmy Smith

With Louis Smith

With Melvin Sparks

With Charles Tolliver

With Roseanna Vitro

With Mal Waldron

With Cedar Walton

With Reuben Wilson


  1. ^ "NEA Announces Lifetime Honors Recipients". National Endowment for the Arts. National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  2. ^ Vladimir, Bogdanov. All Music Guide to the Blues: The Definitive Guide to the Blues, Backbeat Books, page 133, (2003) - ISBN 0-87930-736-6
  3. ^ "George Coleman: This Gentleman can PLAY article". Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  4. ^ Larkin, Colin. The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Guinness, page 887, (1995) - ISBN 1-56159-176-9
  5. ^ Billboard: George Coleman bio
  6. ^ Yanow, Scott. Trumpet Kings: The Players Who Shaped the Sound of Jazz Trumpet, Backbeat Books, page 34, (2001) - ISBN 0-87930-640-8
  7. ^ "George Coleman". Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  8. ^ Billboard: Organic Vibes
  9. ^ a b Longley, Martin (April 2010). "Close to Home". AllAboutJazz: New York. No. 96. p. 9.
  10. ^ "George Coleman | Memphis Music Hall of Fame". Retrieved July 26, 2021.

External links[edit]