Bill Coleman was born in Paris, Kentucky but spent most of his life in Paris, France. Coleman came from the same generation of jazz trumpeters as Louis Armstrong and, like Armstrong, Coleman was part of the New York jazz scene in the late 20s.
Bill Coleman left the U.S. for a European tour in 1933 and fell in love with the jazz scene in Paris, populated by expatriate African- American musicians including reedmen Sidney Bechet, Coleman Hawkins, and Benny Carter; and jazz singers Ada ¿Bricktop¿ Smith and Josephine Baker. Coleman was one of many African American musicians who found they could pursue their lives and art in the relatively free context of bohemian Europe without the shadow of racism they experienced in the states.
One night, roaming the jazz clubs of Paris, Bill Coleman heard jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and his partner, jazz violinist St¿phane Grappelli, for the first time. They met, and together Reinhardt and Coleman made a series of important recordings documenting the Parisian jazz scene in the 30s, including a stunning duet on Coleman¿s original composition, ¿Bill Coleman Blues.¿
When not performing and recording in Europe, Bill Coleman traveled the world, touring in Japan, India, and Egypt. Occasionally, Coleman would return to the States where he worked with the Benny Carter Orchestra, made recordings with Fats Waller, and played in Teddy Wilson's band. But most of his work was in and around Paris. Bill Coleman continued playing there until a short time before his death. He died in Toulouse, France in 1981 at the age of 77.
This week Riverwalk Jazz is devoted to the rich musical scene of Paris in the 30s, with a special focus on trumpeter Bill Coleman, and jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. Special guest, San Francisco guitarist and bandleader Paul Mehling, joins The Jim Cullum Jazz Band on stage at Stanford University. Mehling is the leader of The Hot Club of San Francisco and has numerous albums to his credit including his most recent, ¿Postcards from Gypsyland.¿
Based on Riverwalk script ¿2001 by Margaret Moos Pick