I dig Bill Coleman


Bill Coleman was a terrific trumpet player, born in Paris, Kentucky in 1904. He worked with Fats Waller when Fats was getting his Rhythm up and running after he finished with his Cincinnati radio show and returned to New York City. Coleman also went to Europe and made some of the hottest recorded Jazz featuring trans-atlantic collaboration, with Lucien Simoens, Django Reinhardt, Oscar Aleman, Alix Combelle amongst the continental counterparts. These recordings took place between 1936 and 1938. Before returning to the U.S., Coleman found time to play with bands in India and Egypt. Coleman returned to New York City to record with Bud Freeman, Edmond Hall, Teddy Wilson, Andy Kirk, John Kirby, Billy Kyle and Benny Morton, but went back to Paris (France!) and recorded after the war in ’49 and into the 50s joined by countrymen Don Byas, Dicky Wells and Zutty Singleton. He lived out the rest of his life in France and even appeared at the very first Jazz in Marciac in 1978. If you haven’t heard any of his records, particularly some of those mighty Parisien affairs from the 30s, you might be wondering why I would dedicate a post to these pictures. Above is ‘Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home?’ from 1937. My case is rested.

It’s of particular delight to me that he played in the Luis Russell Orchestra during the latter part of 1929 and appeared on several recordings of the band in that short time on Okeh, Banner and Victor. He is granted a solo on Feelin’ The Spirit in September 1929, in the Orchestra of Russell on piano, Henry Red Allen on the other trumpet, JC Higginbotham, Albert Nicholas, Charlie Holmes, Teddy Hill, Pops Foster, Will Johnson and Paul Barbarin. What a band!

He also worked in Cincinnati shortly after the family moved from Kentucky, playing initially with JC Higginbotham as leader in a band, before moving on to gain professional jobs as a sideman with further bands including one led by Cecil Scott (‘Lawd, Lawd’, 1929, Victor-38098). He left for New York City in 1927 with Scott and remained with him until joining Russell’s Orchestra in ’29.

Here is a recording of Coleman leading a quartet of Billy Taylor on piano, Matty Chapin on bass and Specs Powell on drums in New York in 1945, on Stardust :

And here is Bill in Paris, France, in 1954. Did he Swing? Just check out the dancers!


Here are a couple of pictures from my foray into Paris, Kentucky in May 2013. Nothing Bill Coleman directly related other than the fact he was born there, of course; the city hall first, and the second a street scene from the main street. It has a population of less than 10,000.

Fats Waller dentist building 2

Fats Waller dentist building 2

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