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A Time of Hope and Renewal for Hugh Masekela : The South African trumpeter is in a celebratory mood on his U.S. tour, which reaches the Wadsworth tonight.


South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela calls his new Triloka album "Hope," and for him the title couldn't be more apropos.

"Now that there is hope of peace and a new freedom in our land, it is time to exploit our rich cultural heritage in musical expression," says Masekela in a press release. "It is time to dance, to celebrate."

Masekela, who is in the midst of a whirlwind U.S. tour and who appears tonight with singer Miriam Makeba at the Wadsworth Theater, has been living in Johannesburg since 1991, ending a 30-year self-imposed exile to protest political conditions. He made "Hope," on which he blends his affinity for African roots music with a punchy jazz/fusion feel, with South African musicians.

"The album symbolizes a new beginning for my native land, as well as for my recording career," says the trumpeter, who is perhaps still best known for his 1968 hit "Grazin' in the Grass."

On the current tour, Masekela brings along 11 South African musicians to play a lot of classic African material.

"We're playing the old songs," he says, "but we're finally playing them the way they were meant to be played."

Cole Gets Back to Town: Holly Cole, the Toronto-based singer who makes her third L.A. appearance Tuesday through Thursday at the Viper Room in West Hollywood, builds a good portion of her show around tunes like "Get Out of Town" or "Talk to Me, Baby" done at a shockingly slow crawl that is by turns seductive and revealing. Which is just the way she wants it.

"It takes a lot of strength to be really vulnerable in front of a lot of people, and I love doing it," she says. "I want a rendition to hit me where it hurts, where the real emotion lies."

On Tuesday, Cole won a Juno--the Canadian version of the Grammy--as best contemporary jazz artist for her album "Don't Smoke in Bed." But the singer doesn't feel she can be pigeonholed as a jazz, pop, cabaret or any other style of artist, "nor do I want to be." For this reason, Cole chose to work the Viper, known for its mainly rock lineup. "We want to attract a crossover audience with an open mind," she says.

A spokesperson for the Viper said Cole's booking wasn't that unusual, explaining: "The music here is very diverse. As long as it's honest and genuine, then the genre doesn't matter." More jazz-related artists are on tap at the Viper, but so far no names have been announced.

Tenor Titan Coleman Hits L.A.: George Coleman counts his blessings. The high-energy, be-bop-based tenor sax ace--renowned for his early '60s stint as a member of Miles Davis' quintet (with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams)--says he hasn't received a lot of recognition through the years, but he's not worried. "I'm thankful for what I've got," says Coleman, 59. "My fans haven't forgotten me."

Coleman, who makes his first Southern California appearance in several years Thursday through April 2 at the Jazz Bakery in Culver City, knows that the accent in jazz today is on youthful players, but so what? "When you play, people don't look to see how old you are, as long as you play with enthusiasm and creativity, which is what I always try to do," he says.

The saxman, who can be heard on "Live at Yoshi's" (Evidence), says that his time with Davis was extremely fortuitous. "It was one of the most profound times of my career," he says. "I experimented with my playing. I started stretching out more."

Ellen Cohn Benefit: Ellen Cohn was a devout music lover who, as an executive for the MAMA Foundation and Chase Music Group, furthered the careers of such artists as bandleader Bob Florence, pianist Terry Trotter and singer Mark Winkler, will be honored at a benefit Sunday.

The affair, to be held from noon to 5:30 p.m. at Catalina Bar & Grill, features Florence, keyboardists Trotter, Clare Fischer and Dave Mackay, the B Sharp Jazz Quartet, singers Julie Kelly and Shelby Flint, saxman Bob Sheppard and many others. Proceeds from the tribute will go to defray medical costs incurred by the family of Cohn, who died of cancer Oct. 10. Donation, $15. Information: (818) 704-5445.

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