Earl Coleman is an all-but-forgotten vocalist today. The barrel- voiced baritone was born in Port Huron, Mich., in 1925 and starting singing with bands led by Jay McShann and Earl Hines. In New York in the late 1940s, he became a fixture in the clubs of 52nd Street. Coleman brought enormous feeling to the ballads and blues he sang, sounding as though he were yawning and stretching while singing. Coleman also was a favorite of leading jazz musicians who recognized his special ability to crawl all the way inside a song's lyrics to tell a personal story. Coleman died in 1995.
Before Coleman recorded as a leader in the 1950s and beyond, he was featured on several dates led by major jazz instrumentalists who happily made room for him on their sessions.
Here are seven Coleman gems, the jazz leader on the date, the year of the recording and the CD on which the track can be found. Most are early, but there's one from 1963. Brace yourself. You're going to fall hard for Earl Coleman:
- Don't Sing Me the Blues—with Miles Davis (1946). CD: Miles Davis: Boppin' the Blues.
- This Is Always—with Charlie Parker (1947). CD: Charlie Parker: Complete Savoy and Dial Master Takes.
- Hold That Money—with Gene Ammons (1947). CD: The Mercury Blues Story: 1945-1955.
- Yardbird Suite—with Fats Navarro (1948). CD: Bebop Revisited Vol. 1.
- A Stranger in Town—with Fats Navarro (1948). CD: Bebop Revisited Vo. 1.
- Two Different Worlds—with Sonny Rollins (1956). CD: Tour de Force.
- It Shouldn't Happen to a Dream—with Elmo Hope (1963). CD: Elmo Hope: Sounds from Rikers Island.
JazzWax clip: Here's Coleman and Sonny Rollins in 1956 on Two Different Worlds (that's Kenny Drew on piano)...