George Coleman Septet

Sample this concert
  1. 1Intro01:09
  2. 2Sunny15:29
  3. 3On Green Dolphin Street15:19
  4. 4Body And Soul10:55
Liner Notes

George Coleman - tenor sax; Mario Rivera - baritone sax; Frank Strozier - alto sax; Danny Moore - trumpet, flugelhorn; Harold Mabern - piano; Calvin Hill - bass; Eddie Moore - drums

A powerhouse tenor saxophonist with a robust tone that speaks of his apprenticeship during the early '50s with B.B. King and his subsequent tenure on the organ group circuit with the likes of Jimmy Smith, Charles Earland, Rueben Wilson, Don Patterson and Jack McDuff, George Coleman continues to be one of the most authoritative and respected players on the scene. Following his celebrated stints with Max Roach (1958-1959), Slide Hampton (1960-1962) and the Miles Davis Quintet (1963-1964), Coleman worked in the bands of Lionel Hampton, Chet Baker, Herbie Hancock, Duke Pearson, Wynton Kelly, Elvin Jones and Shirley Scott before forming his own septet, which he premiered at the 1976 Newport Jazz Festival. At this Carnegie Hall performance they played renditions of numbers that later appeared on Coleman's 1977 album as a leader, Revival.

Recruiting two fellow Memphis players in pianist Harold Mabern and alto saxophonist Frank Strozier, Coleman rounded out the group with tenor saxophonist Mario Rivera, flugelhornist Danny Moore, bassist Calvin Hill and drummer Eddie Moore. They open their June 27th set with an instrumental version of "Sunny," a big hit in 1966 for guitarist-singer-songwriter Bobby Hebb. Danny Moore steps out with a daring trumpet solo on this oft-covered pop tune and is promptly followed by Strozier, who demonstrates Bird-like facility on his rapid-fire alto solo. Rivera follows with a blazing bari solo, then Coleman takes his time before launching into a stunning showcase of circular breathing on his tenor. Mabern also turns in a brilliant piano solo on this catchy number.

Their set continues with a bop-inspired reading of Bronislau Kaper's "On Green Dolphin Street," which opens with a virtuosic solo piano intro by Mabern. Coleman unleashes on this swinger, easily double-timing the melody in his inimitable fashion on another burning solo. Moore brings some heat of his own on an inspired flugelhorn solo and Mabern follows with a forcefully swinging, harmonically adventurous display on the keys. After an Eddie Moore drum solo, Strozier, Coleman and Rivera enter like The Three Brothers, joining together on tight unison lines that navigate through the knotty changes at a breakneck tempo. Their set concludes with a lush reading of the classic jazz ballad, "Body and Soul," which again highlights the considerable talents of the wonderful, Memphis-born pianist Mabern. Coleman begins his solo by playing it sweet and mellow before opening up with another deluge of tenor madness. Mabern also tickles the ivories with aplomb on this oft-covered number. The fugue-like four-part horn arrangements in the middle of this Tin Pan Alley classic, and then again during the brief coda at the end, are especially well done.

Coleman would go into the studio in November, 1977 with essentially this same crew (with Lisle Atkinson replacing Calvin Hill on bass and Idris Muhammad replacing Eddie Moore on drums) to record Revival. Earlier that year, Coleman had appeared on Charles Mingus' Three or Four Shades of Blues and the following year would appear on two more Mingus albums, Something Like a Bird and Me, Myself and I. He recorded frequently through the '70s, '80s and '90s and remains active on the scene today at age 76.

Born on March 8, 1935, Coleman was a self-taught, Charlie Parker-inspired alto saxophonist who later switched to tenor sax when he started working with bluesman B.B. King at the age of 18. Among Coleman's Memphis schoolmates were Harold Mabern, Booker Little, Frank Strozier, Hank Crawford and Charles Lloyd. In 1956, he moved to Chicago with trumpeter Little and began working with saxophonists Gene Ammons and Johnny Griffin. In 1958, he joined the Max Roach Quintet and for the next two years recorded several influential albums with the great drummer-bandleader, including Live at Newport, 1958. Coleman also appeared on organist Jimmy Smith's 1957 Blue Note album, Houseparty, with Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Eddie McFadden, Kenny Burrell and Donald Bailey. After his stint with Roach ended, he picked up with trombonist-bandleader Slide Hampton (1959-1962), Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb and Wild Bill Davis (1962), before joining the Miles Davis Quintet in 1963 alongside pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams. He appeared on such important Miles albums as Seven Steps to Heaven, My Funny Valentine and Four & More before being replaced by Wayne Shorter in early 1964. In 1965, he appeared on Hancock's timeless classic on Blue Note, Maiden Voyage. Coleman subsequently played on Chet Baker's The Prestige Sessions of the mid '60s before hooking up sessions with Elvin Jones, Clark Terry, Charles Mingus, Shirley Scott and Horace Silver. He began playing with pianist Ahmad Jamal in 1994, subsequently recording Essence, Live in Paris 1996 and the acclaimed Olympia 2000. In 2006, he formed a team with organ great Joey DeFrancesco, releasing Organic Vibes and Live Bootleg. He still tours and records as a leader (with his son George Coleman Jr. on drums) and with Four Generations of Miles, a Miles Davis tribute band featuring fellow Miles alumni Jimmy Cobb on drums, either Ron Carter or Buster Williams on bass and Mike Stern on guitar.

-Written by Bill Milkowski