Happy Birthday George Coleman

March 8, 1935


A tribute to the consistently inventive tenor

Tenor-saxophonist George Coleman was born on March 8, 1935 in Memphis, Tennessee.

He started on the alto and was part of the fertile Memphis jazz scene of the early 1950s.

Coleman worked briefly with Ray Charles and B.B. King, switching permanently to tenor.

After moving to Chicago in 1956, Coleman freelanced, recorded with Jimmy Smith, and moved to New York in 1958 where he worked with the Max Roach Quintet (next to Booker Little) for a year.

After a stint with Slide Hampton (1959-62) and associations with Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb and Wild Bill Davis, Coleman achieved his greatest fame during his year (1963-64) as a member of the Miles Davis Quintet.

The group, which also included Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, recorded several albums during the period (including Seven Steps To Heaven and Four and More) and Coleman sounds great on those recordings (Davis always praised him), but the young rhythm section thought that the tenor’s playing was a bit too tied to the hard bop tradition and he left in March 1964

After that, Coleman performed with a variety of top players including Lionel Hampton, Chet Baker, Clark Terry, Horace Silver, Elvin Jones, Shirley Scott, Cedar Walton, Charles Mingus (1977-78) and Ahmad Jamal but mostly worked as the leader of his own quartet, heading at least 13 albums of his own during his productive career.

George Coleman is featured playing “Amsterdam After Dark” with a quartet in the early 1980s on an episode of The Jazz Series on British TV.


George Coleman, tenor sax
Hilton Ruiz, piano
Herbie Lewis, bass
Billy Higgins, drums

-Scott Yanow

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