Mary Lou Williams created a jazz history tree graphic in the 1970s that left a number of significant musicians without a leaf in the breeze. One of the musicians who should be on the tree – and who Mary Lou knew from recording with him – is the trumpeter Bill Coleman. Coleman was significant for being among the few expatriates who rarely returned to the states after he moved to France in 1948. He had played in Europe before World War II.

Bill Coleman feature on West Texas Jazz – Part 1
Bill Coleman feature on West Texas Jazz – Part 2

Bill Coleman obituary, NY Times – August 26, 1981.

Bill Coleman, a prominent American jazz trumpeter, died yesterday. He was 77 years old. Born in Paris, Ky., Mr. Coleman played with many top bands of the 1920’s and with Fats Waller in 1935.

He left the United States in 1948 and spent the rest of his career in France. ”A number of black musicians became expatriates to escape segregation in the States,” he once told an interviewer.

Mr. Coleman played with many of the great names of jazz, including Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins and Django Reinhardt. He was well known for his renditions of such classics as ”Down by the Riverside” and ”Jericho.”

Mr. Coleman was made a Chevalier of the French Order of Merit in 1974. For the last three years Mr. Coleman had lived in the village of Cadeillan in the Gers region of southwestern France.

Despite his illnesses, friends said, Mr. Coleman was virtually never separated from his trumpet. They said he had played for the last time with friends on July 25, but he was so weak he had to play while seated.