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George Coleman

11/2/18 & 11/3/18


Salina: How did you come to play the sax? 

George Coleman: In 1950, I think I first picked up an alto saxophone when I finished high school. My brother was a saxophone enthusiast too, so he bought an alto saxophone and we started playing it together. He went on to do other things; he worked with Ray Charles and Little Richard and few of the other R&B artists. I went on to play with some of the great, renowned people like Max Roach. Max Roach was the first well-known band that I played in, and after that, there were many more — Miles Davis, Lionel Hampton, and Herbie Hancock. You know, I never really played with Herbie except with Miles’ band. But when I left the band, I was on his [Herbie Hancock’s] famous record, “Maiden Voyage.” Then Chet Baker. Again, I never really played in his band, but I recorded with him. A lot of people say, “Oh man, you were with Chet?” I said, “No, not really. I was on his record.” During that time, we were doing LPs, so I did about five LPs and about three sessions. We did five LPs and it’s out now on a double CD, about 30 songs on those two CDs. I enjoyed playing with Chet Baker because I had never heard him in that sense. I had always heard his West Coast stuff with him singing and whatnot. But I found out that he was really a great trumpeter. That was a wonderful experience. And of course, I went on to play with others, Lionel Hampton included. I was just thinking about him the other day with some friends of mine who had played with him too — everybody played with Lionel Hampton. It was wonderful experience with him and others. Lee Morgan was another great band that I played with. And Elvin Jones. With Elvin Jones and later with the great Frank Foster, we had a quartet. Me, Frank, Elvin and Wilbur Little, the bass player. We had a great band and went to Europe and other places. We had a great time. It was a wonderful time, a wonderful era. My career has been rewarding, you know. I don’t have any regrets or anything. Everything was great.

Salina: What would you like to say to your fans? 

George Coleman: Keep coming to the Jazz Forum in Tarrytown! I remember the old Jazz Forum down in Manhattan on Broadway and Bleeker. I played there, too.

Salina: And what do you think about the club?

George Coleman: Great club! I was here before…a few months ago. I enjoyed it then, and as always, I enjoy the good clubs. This is one of the good ones.