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Coleman returns with Legacy Big Band

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 27, 2011 - Throughout the 1990s, one of the premier jazz orchestras in the St. Louis area was the Legacy Big Band, conducted by founder and clarinetist Bob Coleman.

The band frequently opened the St. Louis Symphony's summer Pop Concert season at Queeny Park to capacity crowds and also was a popular attraction in frequent performances at Powell Hall, the Sheldon Concert Hall and other venues.

The Legacy Big Band's connection with the symphony was no surprise, given that Coleman played with the SLSO from 1960 to 1997 in the role of assistant principal clarinet.

Coleman, who earned a "Performer's Certificate" upon graduation from the prestigious Eastman School of Music for his skill as a classical musician, also had a strong love of big band era jazz. And that led him to found the Legacy Big Band in 1989 - as well as other groups such as the River City Saxes.

Over the years, Coleman recruited a who's who of area musicians to perform in Legacy, and also featured popular area vocalists such as Asa Harris, Debbie Lennon and Tom Heitman. He put together a series of themed programs for the group that highlighted the music of big band legends such as Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and legendary vocalists like Frank Sinatra.

A stroke in 1997 cut short Coleman's performances with the band on clarinet, but he continued to conduct the group. And after his retirement from the SLSO, Coleman moved to Florida and took on additional responsibilities as conducting and music arranging for the Space Coast Pops Orchestra, based in Brevard County, Fla.

Now, after a lengthy absence from the St. Louis concert scene, Coleman and his Legacy Big Band take the stage at the Sheldon again on Wednesday, Dec. 28 to reprise one of the group's most popular themed shows, "Sinatra Hit Parade."

Vocalist Heitman, who excelled in previous performances of the tribute to Sinatra, returns as lead vocalist. He'll be joined by another St. Louis favorite, Susan Slaughter, whose outstanding work on trumpet highlighted many St. Louis Symphony concerts over the years. Carolbeth True will be the pianist for the evening.

The concert is being presented by AAM Recordings, a label that has released music by the SLSO and orchestra musicians such as David Halen - as well as recordings by jazz trumpeter Jeremy Davenport.

According to Marc Gordon, founder of AAM Recordings, this Sheldon performance will be the first in a series of concerts featuring Coleman and the Legacy Big band with special guests.

Terry Perkins is a freelance writer who often covers music for the Beacon. 

Terry Perkins is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. He has written for the St. Louis Beacon since 2009. Terry's other writing credits in St. Louis include: the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis American, the Riverfront Times, and St. Louis magazine. Nationally, Terry writes for DownBeat magazine, OxfordAmerican.org and RollingStone.com, among others.

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