Johnny Coles, a trumpeter who played with many of jazz music's biggest names, has died of cancer. He was 71.
The Philadelphia resident died Sunday in Allegheny University Hospitals-Hahnemann.
Coles, who had a soft, warm tone and spare style that invited comparison to Miles Davis, was equally comfortable on trumpet and the larger-bore, softer-toned flugelhorn.
He recorded fewer than a dozen records as a band leader, including "The Warm Sound of Johnny Coles" and "Little Johnny C," but played on scores of albums for Duke Ellington and Herbie Hancock, among others. He also played with Count Basie, Ray Charles and Quincy Jones and performed for the royal families of Ethiopia, Thailand and Britain.
He returned to Philadelphia in 1989 after stints in Newark, N.J., Richmond, Va., and the San Francisco area.
Coles realized he was not as well known as the stars with whom he played.
"My name is definitely not a household word. Among jazz buffs, yes. But I'm gonna make it a household word," he said in a 1986 interview.
Coles continued to play trumpet as recently as the summer, despite the cancer that left him weighing only 60 pounds before his death, friends said.
In February, Coles received the PECO Energy Jazz Festival's "Living Legend of Jazz" award during an all-night jam session in the African American Museum.