It wasn’t a matter of playing high notes, for other trumpeters have gone higher, but the ease with which Coleman accomplished his arcs in the sky. Most astonishingly, he made the whole thing sound so easy, which even non-trumpeters will know is a great feat of magic. And his sound! Not brass and valves and air pressure and force, but “gold to airy thinness beat.”
Here he is in glossy form in late 1935 in Paris:
The band was billed as “Garnet Clark and his Hot Club’s Four,” with Bill on trumpet and vocal; George Johnson, clarinet and tenor; Clark, piano; Django Reinhardt, guitar; June Cole, bass.
Here’s Bill in 1972 — playing fluegelhorn, his sound heavier, and darker, but still masterfully light.
We have this clip from a French television program, “Jazz Harmonie,” thanks to trumpeter and film scholar Bob Erwig. Bill is joined by Marc Hemmeler, piano; Jimmy Gourley, guitar; Pierre Sim, bass; Michel Silva, drums.
And — thanks to eBay — Bill signs in, too:
Postscripts: I realized, perhaps too late, that this blogpost was seriously indebted to that of my friend Michael McQuaid, hot musician from Australia, who had recently paid homage to Bill with THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION. The evidence of the borrowing is here, but the theft was purely imitation as the sincerest form of flattery. And — also from Oz — the trumpet player who most reminds me of Mr. Coleman is the equally dazzling Bob Barnard.