A true legend of the tenor saxophone, George Coleman began his career in Memphis’ rich musical environment of the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, alongside such notables as Booker Little, Harold Mabern, Frank Strozier, Jamil Nasser, Hank Crawford, Phineas Newborn Jr., and blues immortal B.B. King. In 1956 George moved to Chicago, along with Booker Little. The bustling jazz scene brought him together with local heavyweights like Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin, John Gilmore and Ira Sullivan, and he joined Walter Perkins’ group, The MJT + 3. When Max Roach heard George with this unit in 1958, he invited him to join his own quartet featuring Kenny Dorham on trumpet.
Coleman moved to New York later that year and has made his home there ever since. Stints with Max Roach paved the way for a call from the incomparable Miles Davis in 1963. For two years George was a member of that groundbreaking quintet with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, recording four classic albums – Seven Steps to Heaven, My Funny Valentine, Four and Miles Davis in Europe – before departing to pursue other projects, leaving that highly visible position to Wayne Shorter. The following year George and Hubbard joined with Miles’ rhythm team for Herbie Hancock’s landmark Maiden Voyage, one of the most popular albums in the history of jazz.
Over the ten years from 1964-74, Coleman freelanced as a member of various groups led by some of the music’s most prominent figures, including Lionel Hampton, Lee Morgan, Elvin Jones, Charles Mingus, Betty Carter, Chet Baker, Shirley Scott, Charles McPherson, Cedar Walton and many more. He also composed and arranged for various ensembles. Since 1973 Coleman has focused primarily on his own groups. He has recorded more than a dozen albums as leader for labels such as Verve, Muse, Timeless, Evidence, Birdology and most recently, Two and Four, not to mention plus countless recordings as a sideman.
For the past 30 years George has also been a major force in jazz education. In addition to his private teaching of advanced jazz techniques, he has also been a consultant and teacher at the New School University, Long Island University, New York University and Mannes School of Music, and has conducted workshops, seminars and master classes at universities all over the U.S. A winner of numerous honors and awards, Coleman has twice been presented the Key to the City in his hometown, and in 1997 received the Jazz Foundation of America’s Life Achievement Award.