His style was a personal mix of New Orleans, Swing and Chicago clarinet influences
Bunky Colman's clarinet style was a personal mix of New Orleans, Swing and Chicago clarinet influences. Mielke says he admired the Bob Crosby Bobcats Dixieland Swing style. Oxtot reports him once sitting in with the Watters band at Hambone Kelly's.
When he joined Bob Mielke's Bearcats in the early Fifties, Colman was a medical student. Colman had first been recruited to play in K.O Eckland’s Social Polecats in the early 1950s.
That carried over into Oxtot’s Polecats. Bunky continued working in Dick’s bands during his Bearcats tenure beginning at the Lark's Club and through the '50s, and he also worked with trumpeter Marty Marsala around this time.
His ongoing medical education meant he was often absent, though he remained a band favorite when available. He did succeed at becoming a physician, though he died relatively young at age 50.
audio and visual resources provide an ongoing survey of Bob Mielke's
Bearcats. New tapes and photos illuminate the Bearcats' first and best
regular gig in Berkeley.
The stereo recordings from the Bearcats early
years highlight the lovely clarinet sounds of Bunky Colman. At several
exquisite moments, especially the slower numbers, his clarinet rings out
In Bunky's composition "Blue Guaiac Blues" his
spacious lines 'bloomed' in the luscious acoustic space of Jenny Lind
Hall, yet the fine texture of his instrumental voice is retained, as
heard in these related recordings:
This is typical of Oxtot's hot little quartet with Ted Butterman and Bunky Coleman. It's an
excellent examples of a conversation in jazz between two and three
instrumental voices ‘trading fours' (splitting solos between four bars
of music), or in this case, 'trading twos' or even 'ones.' Ted Butterman (trumpet) Bunky Colman (clarinet) Dick Oxtot (banjo) Pete Allen (string bass)
Bunky Colman (clarinet) Bill Napier (clarinet) Bob Mielke (trombone) Walter Yost (tuba) Dick Oxtot (banjo)
Judging by the markings, this tape may be from one of the early East Bay music parties hosted by Manny Funk. The absence of lead horn is more than compensated by the delightful clarinet duo of Bunky Colman and Bill Napier.
Colman sounds great in this clean stereo pickup. His sound was a pleasing mix of New Orleans, Swing and Chicago jazz clarinet styles, with the fine timbre and tonal control equal to classical technique, yet with the requisite edge and thrust for jazz.