George Coleman

George Coleman is the best example of the muscularity and strength of the tenor saxophonist. George Coleman has been a jazz legend for his brilliant technique and deep soulful tone. He also influenced many saxophonists over his half-century in music. As a child, he grew up in Memphis’ rich musical milieu of the late 40s and early 1950s. He was surrounded by such luminaries as Booker Little and Harold Mabern, Jamil Nasser and Hank Crawford, as well as B.B. After being deeply influenced by Charlie Parker’s music, Coleman learned to play the alto Saxophone in 1950. His talent was so impressive that George began performing in local clubs and was then invited to tour with B.B. After hearing King in a local bar, the guitarist invited him to tour with B.B. Coleman spent three years more on Memphis’ vibrant scene, expanding his musical skills through his connections and influences and writing for artists such as Ray Charles and the Moonglows. He returned to B.B.’s group in 1955, this time playing tenor sax. This would be his primary horn for the rest of his life. George and Booker Little moved to Chicago in 1956. The vibrant jazz scene brought George together with Johnny Griffin, Gene Ammons and Ira Sullivan. He joined Walter Perkins’ group The MJT 3. Max Roach saw George perform with this group in 1958 and invited him to join his quartet, which featured Kenny Dorham as trumpet player. Later that year, Coleman moved to New York and has lived there ever since. Booker quickly replaced Dorham and George remained with Max until his death in 2009. Slide Hampton, a renowned trombonist, formed his octet with George in 1959. Little and Julian Priester were his Max Roach bandmates. This formed the brass-heavy frontline along with Slide and Freddie Hubbard. Hampton stayed with him until 1962. He also toured Europe for the first-time during his time there. He began to focus more on his own composition and arrangement, which was a foundation for the formation of his own octet in 1974, which is still a strong force on the jazz scene. After a brief stint as an organist with Wild Bill Davis, Coleman was reunited with his Manassas High classmates Mabern, Strozier and Miles Davis in 1963. However, the call from Miles Davis in 1963 brought Coleman back together with the people who would become one of the most important jazz groups in history. George was part of the groundbreaking quintet that included Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams for two years. They recorded four great albums, Seven Steps to Heaven and My Funny Valentine. Before he left to pursue other projects, Wayne Shorter took over that prominent position. Hubbard and George joined Miles’ rhythm group for Herbie Hancock‚Äôs iconic Maiden Voyage the following year. This album is one of the most beloved jazz albums ever. Coleman was a freelancer for ten years, from 1964 to 1974. He worked with some of jazz’s most important figures such as Lionel Hampton and Lee Morgan, Elvin Jones and Betty Carter. Coleman also composed and orchestrated for many ensembles. Coleman has been concentrating on his own groups since 1973. He works in quartet, quintet, and octet settings. In 1990, he added the soprano clarinet to his repertoire. The powerful saxophonist has been a regular at top clubs, festivals, and prestigious concert halls across the U.S. and Europe. He also performs as a special guest artist alongside such prominent pianists as Ahmad Jamal and Hilton Ruiz. More than a dozen albums have been recorded by George as a leader on labels like Verve, Muse and Timeless, Evidence and Birdology, as well as numerous recordings as a sideman. George has been a significant force in jazz education for the past 30 years. He has been an instructor of advanced jazz techniques in private and as a teacher at the New School University, Long Island University and Mannes School of Music. He has also taught workshops, seminars, and master classes at universities across the U.S. and was a recipient of many honors and awards. In 1997, Coleman received the Jazz Foundation of America’s life achievement award. Coleman has a remarkable list of credits that he can also use outside jazz despite his busy schedule. In the 1960s, Coleman worked briefly with Ruby Dee and Ossie. This was a area of interest that would continue to be with him over the years. George appeared on the soundtrack as well as Sweet Love, Bitter, the 1967 film that featured Dick Gregory. It was based on Charlie Parker, George’s idol in his youth. He also appeared in Freejack (1992 science-fiction film) with Emilio Estevez and Mick Jagger; and Preacher’s Wife (1996) with Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston, and Preacher’s Wife (1996). He also appeared on the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s debut film Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop : We Cut Heads. Bill Cosby’s 1991 TV special A

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