Friday, April 1, 2016

George Coleman - A Master Speaks (2016)

Label: Smoke Sessions

In 2015 the National Endowment for the Arts confirmed what countless listeners have known for the last six decades by naming tenor saxophonist George Coleman an NEA Jazz Master. A man of few words, Coleman nonetheless conveys his thoughts with unparalleled eloquence when he speaks through his instrument, as profoundly evidenced by the nine tracks on A Master Speaks, his long-overdue return to the studio.
Scheduled for release April 8 via Smoke Sessions Records, A Master Speaks is Coleman’s first release as a leader in nearly 20 years and first recording since the 2002 all-star live tribute album Four Generations of Miles. The rarity of the session is remarkable in itself; even more special is that fact that it grew out of a desire shared by Coleman and his son, drummer George Coleman Jr., to finally record together.
They’re joined by a stellar band featuring pianist Mike LeDonne and bassist Bob Cranshaw, with guitarist Peter Bernstein making a special guest appearance. This date was produced by Paul Stache and saxophonist Eric Alexander–a disciple of Coleman’s heartfelt, muscular style–who were able to realize a shared dream in documenting this master and his art they have loved for decades.
“I don’t really enjoy recording all that much these days,” Coleman admits, “but I was really happy to do this one with Smoke. I’m at the end game, you know, the twilight of my career, so maybe it was time.”
Like the pronouncements of a sage, A Master Speaks communicates both wisdom and wonder that bespeaks Coleman’s half century in music. From his roots in music-rich Memphis through his work with legends ranging from B.B. King who took Coleman to buy his first tenor to Max Roach to Slide Hampton and his renowned tenure with the Miles Davis Quintet, Coleman established himself as one of jazz’s most soulful and expressive voices. It’s there on the unforgettable melodies of Herbie Hancock’s landmark Maiden Voyage as it is 30 years later on the soundtrack of the Denzel Washington/Whitney Houston film The Preacher’s Wife.
Last year he joined the anointed ranks of NEA Jazz Masters in a class that also included fellow Memphian Charles Lloyd as well as pianist/composer/arranger Carla Bley and Chicago club owner Joe Segal. It was a well-deserved honor for a jazz legend who continues to let his music do the talking.