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Recent Listening: Cecilia Coleman


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Cecelia Coleman Big Band, Oh Boy! (PandaKat).

Before she moved to New York 13 years ago, Coleman established a solid reputation as a pianist and arranger in her native southern California. Studies with Charlie Shoemake and Tom Kubis provided a solid theoretical foundation for imaginative charts that she wrote for a variety of small groups she fronted or played with in Los Angeles. With New York's pool of accomplished jazz players to choose from, she expanded her arranging scope and palette.

Coleman's first big band album is replete with examples of the imagination of a craftsman whose freshness balances her writing influences. There are intimations, but not imitations, of Thad Jones, Bill Holman and Tadd Dameron, among others. Her voicings across the band's sections in the pensive “Until Then" and the counter-punching movement between reeds, percussion and brass in the energetic title tune demonstrate her originality. There are plenty of other instances, among them the swell and ripple of brass figures in the waltz “Princess," the keening quality she gives the reeds leading into Stan Killian's tenor sax solo in “Liar, Liar," and a hymn-like brass choir that sets up the improvised complexities of the ensemble behind alto saxophonist Peter Brainin in “Walk Away" before the piece melds with an arranged section that dissolves into a simple piano statement.

Coleman's band is made up of a cross-section of veteran and newer players. It includes trombonists Sam Burtis and Mike Fahn, saxophonists Bobby Porcelli and Geoff Vidal, and trumpeters Kerry MacKillof and John Eckert. The rhythm team is Coleman, bassist Tim Givens and drummer Jeff Brillinger. Don Sickler guests on trumpet on one piece. All of the soloists are excellent, but Coleman's arrangements—resourceful and free of clichés—are the stars of the album.

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