George Coleman & friends celebrating the Smoke Jazz Club’s 25th anniversary – Photos


NEA Jazz Master George Coleman has a long history with Smoke, the intimate and beloved Upper West Side jazz and supper club in NYC. Big G, as he is affectionately known, opened the club back in April of 1999 and also helped re-open the club in July of 2022 after a major expansion during the down time of the pandemic.

At 89, Big G was back again, leading a powerful group of musicians to kick-off the celebration of Smoke’s 25th anniversary. The quintet varied slightly during the week, but for the final Sunday night, it included Michael Weiss on piano, John Webber on bass, Carl Allen on drums and Russell Malone on guitar.

George Coleman performing with bassist John Webber at Smoke Jazz Club

They played mostly standards and Big G sounded strong. Then George announced that there were some invited guests whom he asked to come up, and at that point the vibe became more of a jam session with Big G as the leader. And he was clearly the leader, calling out the tunes and telling his band exactly how they were to be played.

George Coleman performing with bassist John Webber, guitarist Russell Malone and drummer Carl Allen

Two more saxes and the dynamic trombone of Steve Turre really helped ratchet up the party atmosphere, and it was a nice way to end a big weekend of music and to kick off the 25th anniversary, a milestone that Smoke intends to celebrate for the entire year.

George Coleman leading jam session at Smoke Jazz Club

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