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JAZZ : ALBUM REVIEWS : * * * Cecilia Coleman Quintet, "Home," Resurgent Music.

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.

*

Pianist Coleman's second release for Resurgent is a tighter, livelier effort than her competent first CD, "Words of Wisdom." The 11-tune program of melodically smart, rhythmically attractive numbers, all penned by Coleman, range from hard-bop anthems and big-beat excursions--"B's Blues," "Mama"--to the graceful, slow dance of "Poise."

No matter the tempo, Coleman displays her trademark sensitivity as well as the pianistic muscle that was missing from the first recording. Trumpeter Steve Huffsteter, saxophonist Andy Suzuki and bassist Dean Taba deliver plenty of character in their solo spots. "Home" marks Coleman as a strong composer as well as an inspired keyboardist.

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