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SOUNDS : VALLEY WEEKEND : Performing With a Groove to Take Listeners Home : Cecilia Coleman and her quintet create new melodies over older harmonic foundations. But the songs still get feet tapping.

October 05, 1995|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Cecilia Coleman's quintet performances crackle with freshness. That's because the 32-year-old pianist-composer regularly stocks her band's book with new compositions and distinctive arrangements of tunes by other musicians.

There's no regimen for Coleman's writing. She just does it when the mood hits her. Take "Home," the title track of her soon-to-be-released third album on Resurgent Records.

"The band was on a tour in Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico summer before last," said Coleman, who was born in Long Beach and still lives there. "On the last day, in Albuquerque, when I really wanted to go home, I sat in my room at Motel 6 all day at my keyboard and wrote the tune and the parts. Then we played it that night at the club and it sounded great. It's one of the few things that's come out like that."

"Home" is just one of Coleman's newer works that will be heard at Jax on Saturday, when she leads her quintet: Andy Suzuki (tenor sax), Steve Huffsteter (trumpet), Dean Taba (bass) and Jason Harnell (drums). She'll also be offering a "So You Say," new number based on the chord changes of the standard, "You Stepped Out of a Dream."

"I've never done that before," she said, referring to the process of concocting new melodies over older harmonic foundations, a normal practice during the 1940s heyday of be-bop.

Coleman often writes songs that center around an aspect of her own playing. "So You Say" was one of those songs. "I have been working on playing medium tempos, playing melodically, keeping a flow going, having my ideas begin and end sensibly, just making a logical musical statement," she said. "But I didn't have a lot of tunes that were just straight-ahead swing." So she wrote "Say."

The musician said that many of her tunes are "groove oriented," like classic tunes such as "The Sidewinder" or "Crisis," which were recorded on Blue Note Records by Lee Morgan and Art Blakey respectively. "That's a tune where there's a big emphasis on melody, the kind that catches you but still gets you moving," she said. "And when I see people moving as we play them, I figure it worked."

* Cecilia Coleman's Quintet plays Saturday from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. at Jax Bar & Grill, 339 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, no cover, no minimum. For more information, (818) 500-1604.

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Everything's Brazilian: Bassist Octavio Bailly hails from Niteroi, a section of Rio de Janeiro. So it makes sense that when his band plays, even though the tunes might be Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child" or George Gershwin's "Summertime," the feel is going to be Brazilian.

"Hey, it's a Brazilian jazz band," said a laughing Bailly, who leads his group Friday at La Ve Lee in Studio City.

There's long been a magical union between jazz and Brazilian popular music, starting with the bossa nova movement in the early 1960s, and continuing up to today. Bailly says that is because the two genres are like really good friends. "There's an affinity, a chemistry, they tend to be in the same vein with rich melodies and strong rhythmic grooves," he said. "They are very similar musical languages."

Given his fondness for music from his native land, it is no surprise that though Bailly now lives in Winnetka, his repertoire is built around Brazilian tunes. He especially likes the contemporary composers, doing such numbers as "Samba Doro" and "The Island" by Ivan Lins, and "Obsession" by Dori Caymmi. "Dori is one of the best composers today, perhaps the closest to [Antonio Carlos] Jobim," said Bailly. "His music is very sophisticated, very tasty."

Bailly's band includes the superb singer Carol Rodgers, drummer Enzo Todesco and keyboardist Frank Zottoli. "Carol really fits in," he said. "She's very musical and she lived in Brazil, so she speaks Portuguese."

* Octavio Bailly's quartet plays Friday, 9:30 and 11:30 p.m., at La Ve Lee, 12514 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. Cover charge, $5, two-drink minimum. Information: (818) 980-8158.

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Other Latin Sounds: La Ve Lee offers different takes on Latin music. Each Tuesday, bassist Marco Mendoza's Straight Jacket puts out a volatile Latin funk brew. And the group Caravana plays the room this Sunday, delivering Afro-Latin sounds. Both bands play 9:30 and 11:30 p.m. There is a $5 cover.

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