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JAZZ : ALBUM REVIEWS : * *1/2 Dale Fielder, "Dear Sir: Tribute to Wayne Shorter,"

February 11, 1996|Bill Kohlhasse and Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

They're not necessarily easy to find. But these small-label albums from Southern California-based jazz musicians can be every bit as rewarding as the well-publicized releases from Verve, Blue Note or the other major labels.

These recordings have shared characteristics that mirror, in mood and tempo, the tenor of our contemporary California culture, belying the once accepted "cool-school" cliche of West Coast jazz. The common threads include deeply reflective improvisational styles, strong rhythmic bases, use of ethnic instrumentation and musical forms, a willingness to merge a variety of jazz genres and a reverence for classical traditions from America, Europe, Africa and the East.

But most of all, these discs share an artistic aspiration that is uncompromised by commercial interests. These are musicians looking to establish their own voices and vision, without the help of big record company contracts.

*

Clarion Jazz. "Dear Sir" splits its 11 selections between compositions by Shorter and Fielder's originals. While Fielder's tunes occasionally carry the refined spirit that Shorter imparted to his writing, they fall short by comparison.

Shorter's "Teru" and "Rio" and his arrangement of Gil Evans' "Barracudas" make Fielder's compositions seem little more than pleasant blowing vehicles, missing the emotional intent that Shorter imparted to his music. Still, Fielder's exuberant tenor play and fine contributions from pianist Jane Getz, trumpeter Dan Bagasoul and bassist Bill Markus make this an album worth seeking out.

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