Reviews and Recommended Jazz by Nick Bewsey

Category: Smoke Sessions

George Coleman, A Master Speaks (Smoke Sessions)

Saxophonist George Coleman may have started his career in Memphis playing with B.B. King, but by the time he arrived in New York in 1957 to play on a jazz record for the first time with Lee Morgan (City Lights, Blue Note), his star was ascendant. His brief tenure with the Miles Davis Quintet is how many jazz fans know Coleman, but the dynamic sax player soon established his own following and estimable discography. (That’s him playing tenor on Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage recording.) Now 80, Coleman betrays no sense of diminished faculty or stamina on A Master Speaks (Smoke Sessions), his first album as a leader in twenty years. His tone remains deep, burnished, husky and soulful.

The album starts with a bang – an extended arrangement of “Invitation” kicks off with a spirited Horace Silver-like riff played by pianist Mike LeDonne. It’s a fine groove that’s joined by bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer George Coleman, Jr. that Coleman, Sr. just glides into. It’s a syncopated swinger that lets his dark, smooth sax go on the prowl. Authentic in feeling, Coleman gives standards such as “The Shadow of Your Smile” and “Darn That Dream” a level of swing and class that they deserve along with a renewed melodic interest. Guitarist Peter Bernstein sits in on “Blues For B.B.” a stately Coleman original that fetes his former mentor in the most lyrical way, and the band wraps its up with a high-style, old-school jam, “Time To Get Down.” Coleman admits he doesn’t like to record much, but he loves to play. Lucky for us, A Master Speaks captures his voice in all its glory. (9 tracks; 66 minutes)


A WRTI CD RECOMMENDATION. Pianist Harold Mabern is a two-fisted swinger, a legendary presence presence on the many great Blue Note dates of the 60s who continues to add his distinctive groove to his many solo projects. Read my full review at


Drummer Jimmy Cobb, an historically important musician who duly received an NEA Jazz Master award in 2009, needs no introduction. If his only connection to jazz was through Miles Davis and playing on Kind Of Blue in 1959, his reputation would still be assured, but Cobb’s career includes deep connections to John Coltrane and Wes Montgomery as well as most every important leader and jazz group since his five-year tenure with Miles. At 85, Cobb is still making music, most of it very good and with his own bands (Jimmy Cobb’s Mob, “So What” Tribute band) often comprised of intensely creative, younger players. Continue reading


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