Musicology PhD student Kwami Coleman is captivated by jazz as both a scholar and an artist.
Some of Coleman’s earliest memories are of playing jazz piano, but he says his relationship with music has evolved since that time. He spent many years training as a musician before he realized that what really drew him to the genre of jazz was its deep and underrepresented history.
Now, Coleman also engages with the stories behind the notes. He wants to know about the people who created the music and about the cultural and political environment in which they worked.
Such questions are currently part of Coleman’s dissertation, a musical and social history of the 1960s Miles Davis Quintet. For Coleman, being a musician is integral to his research: He says his understanding of jazz comes not only from studying and listening to it but also from playing it on the piano.
Outside his studies, Coleman teaches a jazz history course at the Jazzschool in Berkeley. He also performs on piano, keyboards, and percussion around the Bay Area and freelances as a music journalist.