Bill Coleman

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Bill Coleman performing at Cafe Society , around 1947. Photograph by William P. Gottlieb .

William Johnson "Bill" Coleman (born August 4, 1904 in Paris , Kentucky , † August 24, 1981 in Toulouse ) was an American swing jazz trumpeter .


Coleman first played the clarinet and saxophone before switching to the trumpet, which he played in a children's orchestra in Cincinnati. At the age of 16 he formed his first formation, Professor Johnson Coleman and his band ; He began his professional career in the orchestra of Clarence Paige, then played in the band of the brothers Lloyd and Cecil Scott , with whom he came to New York City in 1927 and also appeared in the Harlem Savoy Ballroom and made his first records. In 1929 he was a member of Luis Russell's orchestra; but he left the band in 1933, when the solos went almost exclusively to Red Allen . In 1933 he was in France for the first time with the band of Lucky Millinder ; Upon his return, he recorded with Fats Waller in 1934 and worked at Teddy Hill . After an engagement in Teddy Charles’s orchestra , he returned to France in 1935, where he recorded with his own bands (including Swingmen from Harlem ), with Django Reinhardt / Stéphane Grappelli and with Willie Lewis’s band for the Swing label . From 1938 to 1940 he was in Egypt with Herman Chittison's band . After returning to Paris, he recorded with Dickie Wells and Teddy Hill.

As a result of the outbreak of World War II, Coleman had to return to the United States; back in New York he played in 1940 with Benny Carter and Teddy Wilson and in 1941/42 with Andy Kirk . He recorded with Billie Holiday and in 1943 with Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins . He also played with Mary Lou Williams , in 1945 with John Kirby in California and in the bands of Sy Oliver and Billy Kyle in 1946/47.
In 1948 he returned to France, where he stayed from then on. He toured Europe frequently with his own bands and specially composed all-star line-ups. From the mid-1950s he played in a Parisian club, where he played with traveling (and exiled) American musicians such as Don Byas and Albert Nicholas , as well as with French musicians such as the saxophonist Guy Lafitte and Stéphane Grappelli. In 1961 he played with Count Basie's big band in Antibes. In 1967 he recorded with Ben Webster in London ( Ben Webster meets Bill Coleman on Black Lion ).

His autobiography "Trumpet Story" was published in French in 1981 (Northeastern University Press in 1991). In it he gives the racial segregation there as an important reason for leaving the USA. In 1974 he received the French Ordre national du Mérite . Most recently he lived in south-west France in Cadeillan ( Département Gers ). A month before his death he was still playing the trumpet with friends, but only sitting because of his weak heart. His trumpet and other bequests can be found in the jazz museum of the village of Marciac ("Territoires du Jazz"), where a well-known international jazz festival has been taking place in August since 1978. The founder of the festival, Louis Guilhaumon, an English teacher, invited Bill Coleman and Guy Lafitte , who lived nearby, to play there.

The French Académie du Jazz awarded him the Prix ​​Bill Coleman for albums of classical jazz in his honor .

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