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George Coleman

George Coleman

American musician
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro American musician
Countries United States of America
Occupations Jazz musician Saxophonist
Gender male
Birth 8 March 1935 (Memphis)
Star sign Pisces
George Coleman
The details

George Edward Coleman (born March 8, 1935) is an American jazz saxophonist known chiefly for his work with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock in the 1960s. He was named a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Master for 2015.


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. After working with Ray Charles, Coleman started working with B.B. King in 1953, at which point he switched to tenor saxophone. 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's Houseparty (1957), 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's quintet in 1963–1964.

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 (1964) 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 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 and on Chet Baker's The Prestige Sessions, with Kirk Lightsey, Herman Wright, and Roy Brooks. Charles Mingus (1977–1978), Shirley Scott (1972), Clark Terry, Horace Silver, Elvin Jones (1968), Cedar Walton (1975), Ahmad Jamal (1994, 2000), and many others.

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

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 almost exclusively on the 1950s 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, peaked to No. 17.

Coleman was married to jazz organist Gloria Coleman and is father to jazz drummer George Coleman Jr.

He was been named to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2015 and received a brass note on the Beale Street Brass Notes Walk of Fame.


As leader

Year recorded Title Notes Label
1977 Meditation with Tete Montoliu Timeless
1978 Amsterdam After Dark Timeless
1979 Playing Changes live album Jazz House
1985 Manhattan Panorama live album Theresa
1990 Convergence with Richie Beirach Triloka
1991 My Horns of Plenty Verve
1987 At Yoshi's Theresa
1996 Danger High Voltage Two & Four
1996 Blues Inside Out live album Jazz House
1998 I Could Write a Book: The Music of Richard Rodgers Telarc
2002 Four Generations of Miles: A Live Tribute to Miles live album Chesky
2016 A Master Speaks Smoke Sessions

As sideman

With Chet Baker

  • Smokin' with the Chet Baker Quintet (Prestige, 1965)
  • Groovin' with the Chet Baker Quintet (Prestige, 1965)
  • Comin' On with the Chet Baker Quintet (Prestige, 1965)
  • Cool Burnin' with the Chet Baker Quintet (Prestige, 1965)
  • Boppin' with the Chet Baker Quintet (Prestige, 1965)

With Roy Brooks

  • The Free Slave (Muse, 1970 [1972])

With Miles Davis

  • In Europe (Columbia)
  • Seven Steps to Heaven (Columbia)
  • My Funny Valentine (Columbia)
  • Four & More (Columbia)

With Joey DeFrancesco

  • Organic Vibes (Concord, 2005)

With Slide Hampton

  • Slide Hampton and His Horn of Plenty (Strand, 1959)
  • Sister Salvation (Atlantic, 1960)
  • Somethin' Sanctified (Atlantic, 1961)
  • Jazz with a Twist (Atlantic, 1962)
  • Drum Suite (Epic, 1962)
  • Exodus (Philips, 1962 [1964])

With Herbie Hancock

  • Maiden Voyage (Blue Note)

With Ahmad Jamal

  • The Essence Part One (Birdology, 1995)
  • Ahmad Jamal à l'Olympia (Dreyfus, 2001; recorded live 2000)

With Elvin Jones

  • Live at the Village Vanguard (Enja, 1968)
  • Poly-Currents (Blue Note, 1969)
  • Coalition (Blue Note, 1970)
  • Time Capsule (Vanguard, 1977)

With Booker Little

  • Booker Little 4 and Max Roach (quintet) (United Artists 1957)
  • Booker Little and Friends (Bethlehem, 1961)

With Harold Mabern

  • A Few Miles from Memphis (Prestige, 1968)
  • Rakin' and Scrapin' (Prestige, 1968)
  • Workin' & Wailin' (Prestige, 1969)

With Jack McDuff

  • A Change Is Gonna Come (Atlantic, 1966)

With Charles Mingus

  • Three or Four Shades of Blues (Atlantic 1977)

With Lee Morgan

  • City Lights (Blue Note 1957)
  • Sonic Boom (Blue Note 1966)

With Idris Muhammad

  • Kabsha (Theresa, 1980)

With Don Patterson

  • Oh Happy Day (Prestige, 1969) (CD - Dem New York Dues)
  • Tune Up! (Prestige, 1969)

With John Patton

  • Memphis to New York Spirit (Blue Note, 1969)

With Duke Pearson

  • Honeybuns (Atlantic)
  • Prairie Dog (Atlantic)

With Max Roach

  • The Max Roach 4 Plays Charlie Parker (Emarcy, 1958)
  • Max Roach + 4 on the Chicago Scene (Emarcy, 1958)
  • Max Roach + 4 at Newport (Emarcy, 1958)
  • Deeds, Not Words (Riverside, 1958)
  • Award-Winning Drummer (Time 1958)
  • The Many Sides of Max (Mercury, 1959)

With Shirley Scott

  • Lean on Me (Cadet, 1972)

With Jimmy Smith

  • House Party (Blue Note, 1957–58)
  • The Sermon! (Blue Note, 1958)

With Louis Smith

  • Just Friends (Steeple Chase 1982)

With Melvin Sparks

  • Akilah! (Prestige, 1972)

With Charles Tolliver

  • Impact (Strata-East, 1975)

With Roseanna Vitro

  • Reaching for the Moon (Chase Music Group, 1991)
  • Softly (Concord Jazz, 1993)

With Mal Waldron

  • Sweet Love, Bitter (Impulse!, 1967)

With Cedar Walton

  • Eastern Rebellion (Timeless, 1976) with Sam Jones & Billy Higgins

With Reuben Wilson

  • Love Bug (Blue Note, 1969)

With Paul (PB) Brown

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

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