The music of Memphis-born tenor-sax great George Coleman -- the artist set to open the Jazz at the Bistro concert series this week -- has special meaning for series director Gene Bradford.
"When I was studying bass at the Eastman School of Music, my first Miles Davis album -- like a lot of other people's -- was Kind of Blue," he recalls. "But the second Miles album I had was My Funny Valentine. I used to listen to it constantly. I'd put on my headphones and walk from my dorm to classes, take 'em off for class, then put 'em right back on. I loved how everyone sounded so different in that group, and I felt that George Coleman brought some old-school blues feeling -- which was a great contrast to what the rest of the young guys like Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams were doing. He really centered the sound of the band."
When Bradford accepted the position of director of jazz at the Bistro, he immediately began thinking of musicians he wanted to bring to the club, and Coleman was high on the list. And when pianist Ahmad Jamal told Bradford during an after-set conversation this past season that he thought Coleman deserved a lot more attention for the quality of his musicianship, that was the final impetus that led to the booking.
"You know, Coleman started out playing with B.B. King," says Bradford, "and I still have a record he plays on with B.B. Then to go on and work with Miles, I just think he's a great choice to open the season. And it also ties in with what I'm hoping is going to happen with the Miles celebration next year. And what's really great is that George is going to be playing with Harold Mabern on piano, who went to the same high school as George in Memphis."
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