Artist: George Coleman
Album: Live at Smalls Jazz Club
Release Date: 2023
Audio Format:: FLAC (tracks) 24 bit, 48 kHz
Total Tracks: 8
Total Size: 835 MB
1. George Coleman – Four (11:26)
2. George Coleman – At Last (06:27)
3. George Coleman – My Funny Valentine (09:34)
4. George Coleman – Meditation (08:39)
5. George Coleman – Blues for Smalls (08:08)
6. George Coleman – Nearness of You (11:17)
7. George Coleman – New York, New York (07:10)
8. George Coleman – When Sunny Gets Blue (08:17)
The 5th album in the Smalls Living Masters series finds tenor titan George Coleman in the company of pianist Spike Wilner, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Joe Farnsworth in the intimate confines of Smalls Jazz Club. In the words of George Coleman “this record is a tribute to our great city and all of our great fans.” Coleman is on fire and sound better than ever!George Coleman started his 70th year as a professional musician on fire. The year 2022 brought about gigs at Dizzy’s, The Side Door, The Village Vanguard and finishing with a gig at the Caramoor Jazz Fest celebrating his 87th birthday. He is playing better than ever! At each place, he left the stage to standing ovations and music lovers with tears in their eyes. After Caramoor, I played our monthly Monday night Spike Wilner Trio gig at Mezzrow. During the break Spike was telling me about his new project called The SmallsLIVE Foundation Living Masters Series grant. I said we have the greatest master right here in our backyard: the King of NY, BIG G!
Strike while the iron is hot and Spike did. A two-minute conversation turned into one of George Coleman’s best record dates ever. When two or more people get together that love music as much as George and Spike do, love will be the result. The quartet on this date is George Coleman on tenor, Spike Wilner on piano, Peter Washington on bass and myself on drums. The music consists of all the George Coleman hits throughout his career.
As George said to me during a recent phone call: “this record is a tribute to our great city and all of our great fans. Whether you live here or just visit for the music, you are a New Yorker. We play for the PEOPLE. I have been playing for great fans forever at clubs like Slugs, Boomers, the Tin Palace with Philly Joe and Barry Harris, Village Vanguard, Dizzy’s, Smoke, and now Smalls.”
Smalls is where we recorded this record and here’s what George had to say about the project: “Things just fall into place there with Spike on piano. It’s all about the feeling. The support I get from him, Pete and yourself – the energy I get from the crowd. It’s a feeling and the Quartet is able to connect things there. It’s all about connection and how you make it. It’s got to be smooth. This quartet allows me to do that.”
What about the tunes for the date, what’s the connection? George says: My Funny Valentine, people love that song. Anything we do from my time with Miles Davis will be fine.” His rendition of this song brought a chill over all of us at the session – best rendition ever! The song Four he says, “Four is another Miles hit that I like to play to give the quartet a lift. When you get on the bandstand you have to lift off. You’re in trouble if you don’t.” On The Nearness Of You: “I love playing ballads, it’s where all those years of living pay off – and I got a few years under my belt. People love hearing the old stuff. The proof is in the response we get from the fans.”
This from a man who’s first professional gig was for a house party in Memphis in 1954 for $2! He went on to play with BB King for two years. It was with all the blues players coming through Memphis that he learned about tonalities and playing in any key. When he was 20, he started arranging and did one for Ray Charles. George said the doo-wop group Moonglows asked him for one and but they wouldn’t pay him the $10 he asked for – so he told them to “hit the road, Jack”. Later, he went to Chicago with Max Roach and then to NYC for Miles, Kenny Dorham, Slide Hampton, Harold Mabern and Jamil Nasser. George brings all of this every time he plays.
I asked him if he feels differently now playing at 87 then he did that first song he recorded with BB King in 1955: “Well I’m more adventurous now. My technique has improved. Ever since the blues days I’m always reaching, I want to be different – knowledge accumulated through playing all these years. I hope to be able to tell a complete story that our fans will enjoy. Time brings improvement!
Thank you, Big G for the absolute greatness documented here on this CD – Life, Dedication, Perseverance, Swing, NYC, fans, practice and what greatness is. Thank you, SmallsLIVE Masters Series for recording this legend – and, as always, thank you music lovers around the world!