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Talking Bass

Musician says jazz playing is like having a conversation.


Bassist Chris Colangelo grew up in southern New Jersey, hearing his folks playing big band music and Sinatra, while his older brothers were into R&B and funk.

No wonder, then, that the 34-year-old Camden native finds equal pleasure touring with jazz/funk/pop pianist Keiko Matsui, playing in an orchestra behind the legendary Shirley Bassey and offering walking bass lines in a strictly bebop quintet led by drummer Kim Edmundson.

"I like doing a lot of different things," said Colangelo, a keen musician with a big sound and a rock-solid time feel who plays with Edmundson tonight at Monteleone's in Tarzana.

"As long as it's good quality music, it's fun. But I do want to have creative input in what I play, use my knowledge and experience. I want to interpret music, not just be a puppet."

Colangelo talked about some of his recent stints, including a four-week outing with Matsui, a spate of performances behind Bassey and a gig in New York with the jazz great, saxophonist/woodwind artist Yusef Lateef.

"Keiko, that's almost like an R&B thing," he began. "My role is to lay down a groove with the rhythm section, accompanying her, which I get off on. It's good experience."

Bassey, at 62 still knocking out the James Bond film themes for which she's known, "is unbelievable," said the bassist.

Playing with Lateef, a former main streamer who has turned experimentalist, allowed Colangelo a good deal of freedom.

"In my solos, he told me, 'Play what you want to play for as long as you want,' " the bassist said. Surrounded by an unusual ensemble of reeds, brass and percussion, Colangelo found the music, based around African rhythms, "very interesting, really cool."

In town, Santa Clarita resident Colangelo keeps the variety going, working the occasional TV soundtrack job for the CBS show "Diagnosis Murder" or playing jazz with such artists as Edmundson and the resourceful tenor saxophonist Benn Clatworthy. Edmundson's band includes two genuine jazz aces--alto saxophonists Med Flory and Lanny Morgan--and up tempo bebop numbers are generally spotlighted.

Performing with these masters is a big plus for the bassist.

"These guys are amazing. They bring the best out of you," said Colangelo, who lives with his wife, Elaine, and their 16-month-old son, Christopher.

"We play these blazing tempos and I don't get tired because of who's playing. And Kim's brilliant, too. He does so many things well, and, on these fast tunes, his time never lags."

Despite Colangelo's fondness for variety, jazz remains a favorite mode.

"I like it because it's like having a conversation. You don't know what you'll play until you hear what someone else plays," he said, naming such notable bassists as Eddie Gomez, Ron Carter and John Patitucci as influences. "Communicating through what you play is rewarding."

Chris Colangelo with Kim Edmundson's quintet, Monteleone's, 19337 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. No cover; without dinner, $9.95 food/drink minimum. (818) 996-0662.


Guitarist Barry Zweig, who is always looking for interesting notes to pick, should be in fine fettle with the dandy trio he's bringing tonight, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., into Chadney's (3000 W. Olive St., Burbank; no cover, one-drink minimum per show; (818) 843-5333).

On hand will be bassist Kenny Wild, once a contemporary jazz-bent player who has shown he has a deft feeling for more mainstream moods, and the tidy yet ebullient drummer Dick Weller.

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