Friday, May 03, 2013

Cecilia Coleman - NYC Jazz Record

Cecilia Coleman - Who Am I?

It is unclear whom the title of pianist/arranger/
composer Cecilia Coleman’s big band release is
addressing. Is she asking herself? The listener? Do we
ask ourselves? Coleman made a name for herself as a
performer and teacher in Southern California before
making her way east; the high school yearbook-like
collage on the cover proudly boasts the city of Long
Beach but this album was recorded in Brooklyn.

The field of big band arranging is no stranger to
women. From Mary Lou Williams to Melba Liston to
Maria Schneider, there has been a great tradition of
musical minds combining the disparate instrumentation
of a big band into a formidable and swinging unit.
Although it is almost entirely irrelevant to the sound
on the album, it is interesting to note that Coleman is
the only woman involved in her own big band. Maybe
that’s because of scheduling, the makeup of her social
circle or just a coincidence. That discussion opens up a
whole can of worms that someone else can tackle for
their thesis. We’re just here to listen.

Coleman has produced nine arrangements (eight
of them original tunes) for this release, showcasing an
ability to pilot a large ensemble from her piano bench.
Opener “Ode to A Tip Jar” is a straight ahead swinger
that puts piano up front for a little bit before the full
band kicks in with shades of Monk’s “In Walked Bud”
and soprano saxophonist Peter Brainin gets a chance to
stretch out. The lone standard, “East of the Sun”, gets a
very straightforward reading with vocalist David Coss
offering up an inoffensive croon.

Baritone saxophonist Keith Bishop’s low honk is a
pleasant presence throughout the album, especially
when anchoring the funkier “Hope” and album-closing
title track. Coleman has a smooth swinging touch
writing for a large ensemble but unfortunately doesn’t
take much of a solo spotlight on the album. Hopefully
for her next release she can pen some features for
herself and fully show off her wide range of abilities.

Cecilia Coleman @ NYC Jazz Record

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