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Coleman, Bill (actually, William Johnson)

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Coleman, Bill (actually, William Johnson), jazz trumpeter, flugelhornist, singer; b. Centerville, Ky, Aug. 4, 1904; d. Toulouse, France, Aug. 24, 1981. He moved with his family to Cincinnati in 1909. Coleman’s early efforts were on clarinet and “C” melody sax, then he specialized on trumpet from about 1916, taking trumpet lessons from Wingie Carpenter. He made his debut in an amateur band led by J. C. Higginbotham; also played in a roadhouse quintet with Edgar Hayes, and taught himself to read music. His first professional work was with Clarence Paige, then he joined a band led by Lloyd and Cecil Scott, moving with them to N.Y. in December 1927. He worked with the Scotts in N.Y. off and on through 1930 in various bands, and also played with Luis Russell on three different occasions (1929, 1931, 1932). Coleman spent the 1930s working with various leaders, including his first tour of Europe (with Lucky Millinder, June-October 1933). From late 1934-spring 1935, he was with Teddy Hill’s orch; during this period, he also recorded with Fats Waller. In Sept. 1935, Coleman sailed to Europe to work with Freddy Taylor’s band in Paris; he subsequently worked in Bombay, India (November 1936-April 1937) with Leon Abbey’s Orch, returned to Paris for a stint with Willie Lewis (June 1937-December 1938), and then co-led the Harlem Rhythmakers Swing Stars in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt. Finally, in March 1940 he returned to the U.S. Again, he worked with a number of leaders, staying on average four to six months with each band; highlights included stints with the Teddy Wilson Sextet (July 1940-May 1941), Andy Kirk (Sept. 1941-February 1942), Ellis Larkin’s Trio (March-December 1943), and Mary Lou Williams’s Trio (most of 1944). He then worked briefly in Los Angeles with John Kirby (early 1945) and Boston (June 1945), before undertaking USO tours for about a year, including concerts in the Philippines and Japan. After working with Sy Oliver (late 1946-47) and Billy Kyle’s Sextet (late 1947-48), Coleman moved to France in December 1948. Other than vacations in the U.S. in 1954 and 1958, he lived in France for the remainder of his life. Coleman has led his own bands in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, Sweden, Italy, Spain, and Germany and has made many appearances at European Jazz Festivals, including a guest spot with Count Basie at Antibes in 1961. He toured extensively in the decades up to his death, eventually limited to performing while seated because he was too weak to stand. Coleman died following cardiac and respiratory troubles in 1981.

Coleman, Gary (1968–) [next] [back] Cole, Vinson

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