Remembering beautiful legacy of Albert Coleman


Unforgettable Indiana Avenue entrepreneur and musician Albert Coleman has passed away at age 96.

He was recognized by the Jazz Journalists Association as a Jazz Hero. From the JJA article by Leslie Lynnton Fuller:

“Club owner, musician and businessman Albert L. Coleman (b. August 18, 1927), is a child of Alvia and Helen Brown Coleman and of Indiana Avenue. He’s been a witness to and participant in the jazz life of this famous, musically fertile stretch, with memories spanning almost a century.

A 1945 graduate of Crispus Attucks High School, Coleman also attended McArthur Conservatory and the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music at Butler University. Jazz historian David Leander Williams has written that he was an accomplished drummer even in childhood, turning to the drums after his father whipped him for secretly selling his saxophone to another talented Indianapolis youngster, Jimmy Coe (who later toured with Jay McShann's band while Charlie Parker was in it).

Albert played with Coe and also Duke Hampton (who led a 14 piece band featuring the four Hampton Sisters), the Montgomery brothers (Buddy, Monk and Wes), trumpeter Freddie Hubbard on his way up and bassist Leroy Vinnegar. Coleman's reputation soared and spread when he convened Henry D. Cain on piano and Will Scott on bass into a trio known as The 3 Souls. In its 50-year career, the group caught gigs at the Cactus Club, Cotton Club and A Place to Play, and had several hits on the Argo label (prior to Chicago's Three Souls trio, which also recorded on Argo).

But gigging didn't fulfill all his ambitions. Coleman operated several businesses, including a vending machine company. He formed a partnership with Robert Smith in 1969 to open up a local motel, Cole-Smith Manor, which he eventually ran as a family business. That same year he purchased the British Lounge, a night club on Indiana Ave., which he reopened as Al’s British Lounge.

"As soon as the ink dried on the contract, I immediately renovated the entire place and made it a class-A establishment," Coleman remembers proudly. As historian Williams has documented, Coleman was a "never-say-die entrepreneur . . .determined to impede the Avenue's march to the graveyard."

That venue's renown has endured despite its relatively short six-year run and the wanton demolition of its street. As photographer Mark Sheldon says, “It was the hip place to be, back in the day.”

Coleman was married to Anna Dunlop for 62 years (they had two sons, James and Arvine) and in 1978 co-founded the Jacer Inn Family Retreat and Conference Center in Roachdale, Putnam County, initially with one double-wide mobile home and three large tents on 71 acres. The country retreat helped provide inner city residents with life skills, and offered many services, including jazz performances and culture in its programs.

In May 2005, when his 3 Souls bandmate Cain died, Al Coleman laid down his drumsticks forever. But he’s still committed to jazz, attending live performances when possible and compiling a historical list of Naptown musicians begun by the late Willis “Brushfire” Kirk.

“He started with a list of 40 musicians," says Coleman, "then he passed it to me. Now he’s gone, I’ve added Willis himself to the list. David Williams and I are up to 400 musicians now, a few I knew only by nicknames, like “Skillet.” He's also deposited manuscripts and folders of photographers in the Albert and Anna Coleman Collection of the Manuscript and Visual Collections department of William Henry Smith Memorial Library, at the Indiana Historical Society.

As Jazz Hero Albert Coleman anticipates his 93rd birthday this year, he offers this recipe for a long life. “I quit smoking and drinking in the 1980s, and moved out in the country for fresh air,” he reflects. “But I’m never giving up jazz.”


Stuart Mortuary, Inc. - Indianapolis

2201 North Illinois Street

Indianapolis, Indiana



Mar. 8, 2024

10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Stuart Mortuary Chapel

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