George Coleman, Jr. Pays Tribute to His Mentors

May 4, 2023

On his new album, Resurgence!, drummer George Coleman Jr. pays tribute to the many artists and styles that influenced him, growing up in an environment where he was surrounded by jazz royalty. The son of veteran tenor saxophonist George Coleman, Sr., Coleman, Jr. will introduce music from the new album in a performance on May 17 at New York’s Smoke Jazz Club.   

Coleman Jr. told me that, “Max Roach got me my first drum set when I was about six or seven. My first drum lesson was with Max; he was a regal figure. He had a suit jacket on for the lesson.” Coleman, Jr. also studied with Billy Higgins. “I always marveled at Billy,” he said. “He brought so much joy to music. He had a knack of creating multiple grooves within a song, and he did it flawlessly. He was a kind guy and would never take my money for lessons. I always wanted to pay him and he wouldn’t take it.

The album is described by Coleman, Jr. as, “bringing together the soul of Memphis and the rhythm of Cuba”. Joining Coleman, Jr. on the recording and at Smoke are:  Mike DiRubbo (alto sax), Biran Charette (organ), Paul Bollenback (guitar), Daniel Sadownick (percussion), and special guest, Richard Livingston Huntley (Bata Drums). 

Prior to releasing this album as a leader, Coleman Jr. has performed with organist Joey DeFrancesco and vocalists Dakota Staton and Gregory Porter, among many others. His father is known for his quintessential work with such legends as Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, and Charles Mingus. His mother, Gloria Coleman, was a bassist and organist who led her own groups and recorded with alto saxophonists Leo Wright and Hank Crawford. 

When discussing the album Coleman, Jr. said, “It is an homage to all my mentors and teachers, including my mom who was my actual teacher. One thing I learned from my dad was when you’re playing for people your job is to entertain. This record is fun-it’s a party.” In addition to the working band, NEA Jazz Master, George Coleman, Sr. is featured on two tracks of Resurgence!, “Amsterdam After Dark,” and “Mabe”, a tribute to pianist Harold Mabern. At a Giants of Jazz concert honoring Mabern in November 2019, Coleman, Sr., gave an extraordinary saxophone performance as part of a septet playing Hank Mobley’s “This I Dig of You” and one of Mabern’s signature tunes, “Rakin’ and Scrapin”. Joining him in that performance were tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, trombonist Steve Davis, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, pianist David Hazeltine, bassist John Webber, and drummer Joe Farnsworth. 

Asked if it was difficult to share the same name of a famous father, Coleman Jr. admitted, “I feel honored to have George Coleman as my father, but it puts a lot of pressure on you.”-JAY SWEET

To make reservations at Smoke, log onto  For more on George Coleman Jr. and other jazz topics, check out Jay Sweet’s podcast 30 Albums For 30 Years (1964-1994) on Spotify and YouTube.

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