George Coleman - Amsterdam After Dark

George Coleman Amsterdam After Dark (Timeless 1979)

Leadership came late to George Coleman but he seized the opportunity with both hands.

George Coleman - Amsterdam After Dark

Personnel

George Coleman (tenor saxophone), Hilton Ruiz (piano), Sam Jones (bas), Billy Higgins (drums)

Recorded

on December 11 1978 at Sound Ideas Studio, New York City

Released

as SJP 129 in 1979

Track listing

Side A:
Amsterdam After Dark
New Arrival
Lo-Joe
Side B:
Autumn In New York
Apache Dance
Blondie’s Waltz


Amsterdam after dark, like many virus-ridden cities around the globe, has been looking pretty deserted these months. But it’s looking up these days as well, certainly by day, as life resumes a bit of its ‘normal’ course, at least for now, and people start roaming the streets again under the Spring sun. Well-deserved but our capital city looked stunningly beautiful without the crowd. One of the personal advantages in this general situation of misfortune has been that my fate – more precisely part of my work – has send me on the road, or better said, on the canals, which unfolded themselves in front of me like a painting of Jacob van Campen or the meandering miracle lines of Parker’s Ornitology. Even better still, Amsterdam seems to feel pretty swell. A short while ago it resembled a tiger in the zoo sauntering psychotically from one end to the other end of the cage, being gazed at enthusiastically by passersby but forgotten shortly after. Now it’s a sloth, idly hanging in a tree, scratching his armpits and taking a deep sigh of relief.

The beauty of nocturnal life in Holland’s capital city presumably was on the mind of tenor saxophonist George Coleman, who recorded his second LP as a leader, Amsterdam After Dark, in New York City – born New Amsterdam – but had been a respected guest of the Dutch scene in the late seventies. Like many of the great American modern jazz musicians such as Don Byas, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Benny Bailey, you name ‘m, Coleman was enamored of The Netherlands, which at the time had a very extensive infrastructure of little towns and clubs and an appreciative jazz audience.

Amsterdam After Dark was recorded in 1978, your a-typical Flophouse review year, in fact a ‘first’ and most likely a ‘last’, but the exception had to be made for George Coleman, who should’ve recorded as a leader much earlier in his career, but rather inexplicably, considering his talent and reputation, enjoyed a belated debut release in 1977. The Timeless label from The Netherlands, responsible for Amsterdam After Dark, released ’77’s Meditation, a daring duet with the Spanish pianist Tete Montoliu, recorded while on tour in Europe.

Obviously, Coleman is best known for his association with Miles Davis, who recruited the tenor saxophonist in 1963 as part of his stellar band of young lions – Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Coleman appeared on Seven Steps To Heaven and a series of stellar live albums, notably Four & More. Allegedly, Coleman was driven away by Tony Williams, who expressed the opinion that Coleman’s style lacked edge. I wonder then why did Williams agree with the inclusion of Coleman in the first place? By the way, Coleman later said that he wasn’t aware of Williams’ grudge and that it was the meager salary of the Miles Davis band that accounted for his notice. Fact is Coleman certainly was able to rip and roar around the Ring of Saturn but more than anything is a player of balance, substance and controlled fury and evidently couldn’t be bothered with the frenzied revolutionary musical spark of the late sixties, which probably accounts for his lack of exposure.

He’s one of those supreme musician’s musicians like Hank Mobley or Warne Marsh, which perhaps for the musicians concerned is more a curse than a blessing. He’s “Big G”, a passionate weight lifter, 85 years old and a staple of the New York City scene, a big influence on contemporary top guns like Eric Alexander and our own Ben van den Dungen. The Memphis-born saxophonist, childhood friend of the late Harold Mabern, Booker Little, Frank Strozier, Charles Lloyd and Hank Crawford, quite a bunch, recorded as recently as 2019, The Quartet, with Mabern, bassist Jon Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth.

Coleman, who apprenticed with Ray Charles and B.B. King, came into prominence with Slide Hampton and Max Roach in the late 50’s. Apart from his work with Miles Davis, Coleman is admired for his contribution to Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, which was recorded, by the way, with Miles Davis staples Ron Carter and, hmmm… Tony Williams. Coleman furthermore divided his time between cutting edge and roots music, appearing on records by organists Jimmy Smith, Reuben Wilson, Charles Earland, Don Patterson, Brother Jack McDuff, Shirley Scott and Brian Charette. That’s a lot of groove, buster.

There’s a good groove on Amsterdam After Dark, but it’s of a different nature. It’s layered. There’s the Latin-ish rhythm of the title track, a rhythm that goes back to the classic Blue Note sessions of the early 60s, in which the drummer on this record, Billy Higgins, was predominantly involved. Of course, the Latin influence has pervaded jazz from the start. Jelly Roll Morton stated that every jazz tune needed a Spanish tinge. There’s the Coltrane Quartet-drone of New Arrival, courtesy of Higgins and bassist Sam Jones. The melodies are fantastic and the organic mingling of melody and rhythm – breaks, stop-time, straight swing – of Coleman’s Apache Dance is particularly exciting. Pianist Hilton Ruiz, in top form, warms to the challenge.

Coleman’s Amsterdam After Dark tune is a crash course in storytelling but dangerous to try at home, a precisely articulated development from a gravely introduction, sly staccato stabs against the beat and whirling sentences that sustain momentum throughout, interspersed with pungent circular breathing. The introduction is notable. The sandpaper semi-tone, reflective of the intense and secretive whispers that lovers are prone to utter, makes you highly curious of things to come. Simple but effective and definitely a masterstroke.

Dutch young lion Gideon Tazelaar, 22-year old tenor saxophonist who resides in New York most of the time and is influenced by George Coleman, told me a little story recently during an interview for another publication that is so typical of the attitude and energy of the ‘old guard’. As it happens, Tazelaar was introduced to Coleman backstage at club Smoke and since then has followed weekly lessons at ‘Big G”s place, marathon sessions of playing, talking turkey and philosophizing. One day Tazelaar was gigging at a little place with his friend Felix Moseholm and the preceding afternoon had asked Coleman to join forces. Yeah why not. Coleman had to pass as a result of a pain in his back. However, when the lights had turned low downtown, the 85-year old saxophonist finally did turn up, cain in his right hand, case in his left hand. And, as per se, played as elegantly and balanced as ever. Taking care of business.

One of the big leaders in his own right.

Slide Hampton Octet - Sister Salvation

The Slide Hampton Octet Sister Salvation (Atlantic 1960)

Sister Salvation is trombonist and arranger Slide Hampton’s breakthrough album as a leader. It’s another one of those typically soulful, warm-sounding, big ensemble productions of the Atlantic catalogue of the early sixties – like the albums of Hank Crawford, David Newman and Milt Jackson. Too good to miss.

Slide Hampton Octet - Sister Salvation

Personnel

Slide Hampton (trombone, arranger), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Ernie Royal (trumpet A2, B1-3), Richard Williams (trumpet A1, A3), Bob Zottola (trumpet), George Coleman (tenor saxophone, arranger), Jay Cameron (baritone saxophone), Kiane Zawadi (euphonium), Bill Barber (tuba), Nabil Totah (bass), Pete LaRoca (drums), Billy Frazier (arranger)

Recorded

on February 11 & 15, 1960 at Bell Sound Studio, NYC

Released

as Atlantic 1339 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Sister Salvation
Just Squeeze Me
Hi-Fli
Side B:
Asservation
Conversation Piece
A Little Night Music


Nowadays it’s hard to fathom the kind of incredible jazz life Slide Hampton led. Already playing trombone by the age of three, Hampton toured the US with the (XL) family band of his father, providing music at carnivals, circuses and fairs. As a young man, Hampton’s stature grew by playing with Lionel Hampton (no family relation), Dizzy Gillespie and Maynard Ferguson, displaying both his fluent trombone playing and superb arrangements. By 1960, a recording as a leader by the cutting-edge Atlantic label was more than appropriate. (The release of Slide Hampton And His Horn Of Plenty a year earlier on the obscure Strand label had gone relatively unnoticed) In 1960 Hampton also played on Charles Mingus’ Mingus Revisited and Randy Weston’s Uhuru Afrika.

Asservation is a succesful blend of small combo flexibility and big band muscle. One constantly imagines a singing voice prying for attention and I think that kind of vibe is one of the tune’s and album’s greatest qualities. Sister Salvation assuredly has that ‘singing voice’ quality, you’d expect the voice of “Brother” Ray Charles to chime in any minute now. It’s churchy, r&b-type jazz at its best.

A Little Night Music, a more lithe, bouncy tune with a pronounced descending bass line, is contagious as well. Hampton also picked interesting tunes of other composers like Randy Weston’s Hi-Fli and Gigi Gryce’s Conversation Piece, that include concise, top-notch solo’s by Freddie Hubbard and George Coleman. In short, the album is a happy marriage between tunes, arranging and soloing.

The jazz life of Slide Hampton would continue, bringing many more recordings in the sixties, a job as arranger at pop soul-kingdom Motown and fruitful years as a jazz expatriate in Europe in the seventies and beyond. Hampton has been especially prolific as a recording artist in the new millenium. Twin Records released Hampton’s latest album, Inclusion, in 2014.

Don Patterson - Tune Up!

Don Patterson Tune Up! (Prestige 1964/1969)

Tune Up! is one more example of a record company’s policy to keep an interest in the career of a musician when he or she is absent with no apparent return ticket attached; in this case Don Patterson, whose hard road of drug abuse at the end of the sixties had become strewn thick with heavy rocks and barbed wire.

Don Patterson - Tune Up!

Personnel

Don Patterson (organ), Booker Ervin (tenor saxophone A1-2), Sonny Stitt (tenor saxophone A2, B1), Houston Personn (tenor saxophone B2), George Coleman (tenor saxophone B2), Virgil Jones (trumpet B2), Grant Green (guitar B1), Billy James (drums A1-2, B1), Frankie Jones (B2)

Recorded

Recorded on July 10 & August 25, 1964 and June 2 & September 15, 1969 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PR 7852 in 1969

Track listing

Side A:
Just Friends
Flying Home
Side B:
Tune Up
Blues For Mom


It didn’t affect his playing on the title track, this album’s most interesting cut, a leftover from a September ’69 session that spawned two high-standard releases – Brothers 4 and Donnybrook. It would be hard to follow up Grant Green’s amazing solo on Miles Davis’ fast-paced composition – Green (credited as Blue Grant) showing no loss of remarkable straight jazz skills during his burgeoning funk jazz period – were it not that Don Patterson rises to the occasion, not tempted to flex his muscles in bragadocious manner, but instead stringing one dynamic, coolly delivered bop run to another, like multiple toy beads.

It’s difficult to make head or tail out of an album that presents four tunes from four different sessions, ranging from ‘64 to ’69. This nevertheless belies the good quality of these sessions, what with the standing of Patterson and sidemen such as Stitt, Ervin, Coleman and Jones, who confidently blow their way through standards and blues.

YouTube: Tune Up