Trumpeter Bill Coleman (1904-81) played in a host of orchestras (led by Benny Carter, Teddy Wilson, Luis Russell and Don Redman) in the 1930s, with the same vibrato and finesse as his contemporary, Buck Clayton, but not quite the same bravura and vocabulary. To make an analogy using trumpeters from another jazz era, Coleman is to Clayton as Kenny Dorham is to Clifford Brown.
Coleman would eventually settle in France, where these recordings were made and recently reissued, and where he would co-found the Marciac Jazz Festival
. A geographical serendipity allowed him to entitle his memoirs De Paris (Kentucky) à Paris (France)
. The Complete Philips Recordings
centers around a somewhat rowdy (on and off-stage) October 1952 concert at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, an apparently totemic event for budding French jazz fans of the era. (At least that's the sense conveyed by veteran critic Michel Boujut's dewy-eyed review of this disc in Jazz Magazine
In addition to its sentimental value to listeners of a certain generation, however, the concert recording is of real musical interest as well. It's easy to joyfully submit to the crazy juxtaposition of styles in the set list. 1920s chestnuts are played with rollicking gusto, only to be followed by loping 1930s swing numbers, not to mention urbane 1950s vocal R&B.
Similarly, the musicians are a temporal and stylistic grab bag. Drummer Zutty Singleton, having wandered out of the Mezz Mezzrow band, pounds raucously through "When the Saints Go Marching In, "Idaho" and "Drum Face," sounding like a voice speaking to us directly from the New Orleans of another century (which, of course, he is). Trombonist Dicky Wells' playing does nothing to dispel the impression that he was, as he himself admitted, "half-high and half-frozen" during his European sojourn. This condition does not prevent credible, big-hearted solos on "Saints" and "Black and Blue."
Saxophonist Guy Lafitte is consistently good, offering easygoing solos in the Ben Webster manner. Randy Downes is a bop pianistSingleton is alleged to have approved his membership in a cannabis-induced haze, only to judge him too modern once the smoke had clearedwith a nice feature on "Out of Nowhere." He deftly negotiates the swing numbers, even if Singleton is entirely uninterested in meeting him halfway.
Coleman weaves in and out of this vaguely chaotic mise en scène, playing his lovely solos ("St James Infirmary," "Red Top," "Royal Garden Blues"), singing blues affably, joking with the audience in good French with an upbeat but cool composure to which a Zen monk could aspire.
The two-CD package is complemented by six 1951 studio numbers. These septet tracks, with a far more coherent band and fine arrangements by trombonist Bill Tamper, present Coleman as a quite serious and forward-looking bandleader.
Personnel: Bill Coleman: trumpet, vocal; Bill Tamper: trombone; Jay Cameron: alto
saxophone; William Boucaya: baritone saxophone; Art Simmons: piano;
Jean-Pierre Sasson: guitar; Guy de Fatto: bass; Gérard "Dave"
Pochonet: drums; Miriam Burton: vocal; Dicky Wells: trombone, vocal;
Guy Lafitte: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Randy Downes: piano; Buddy
Banks: bass; Zutty Singleton: drums.