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Mainstream Mover

California jazz pianist now also has digs in New York, where she's landed a few gigs.

September 03, 1998|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Cecilia Coleman, the modern mainstream jazz pianist, has fulfilled a longtime dream: She's become bicoastal. In July, the Long Beach native moved into a tiny apartment on New York City's Upper West Side and now plans to spend most of her time there, with regular trips back to Southern California.

"I feel like you have to go to New York eventually, if you play jazz," she said. "I've been wanting to move for the past 10 years, since the first time I went there. But I was married, and it wasn't easy. Now I'm not, and I also have a steady teaching gig at Cal State Long Beach, which gives me a little bit of security to branch out more."

Coleman appears with her quintet Friday and Saturday at Jax in Glendale, and at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Sept. 11. She said she enjoys the compactness of New York--"You're close to everything you need"--and the city's vibrant energy.

And, naturally, she likes the Apple's jazz goings-on. In just over a month in town, she's made some good contacts--one is her ex-bassist Danton Boller, who also lives there--and she's worked several gigs, including some under her own name.

As to whether she can break into the heralded NYC jazz scene, she said, "It's totally up to me. Who's going to stop me except myself? There are so many venues, and I got very lucky, getting hired. But then I have three CDs out, I am a player--the least I can do is try to get work for myself. Whether other people start hiring me as a sideman, that's up to them. But I've started."

She has not found New York ideal, though. She most misses plain collegial friendliness, saying many N.Y. musicians are aggressive, even negative.

"Maybe it's because too many people are trying to do the same thing, but they're generally not very light-spirited, which is sad," she said. "I love playing music. The players in my band here are my best friends, and the music is an extension of that. I miss that back there."

Though Coleman won't have performed for a while with her quintet, which includes trumpeter Steve Huffsteter and saxophonist Jerry Pinter, she expects things to go well at her upcoming engagements.

"My playing feels a lot looser in a lot of ways," she said.

* Cecilia Coleman plays Friday and Saturday, Sept. 4-5, 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., at Jax, 339 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. No cover, no minimum. (818) 500-1604.

*

Spirited Sambas: Guilherme Vergueiro, the wonderful Brazilian pianist who loves to play sambas, is on a roll. The artist, who since 1990 has split his time between the Los Angeles area--he lives in Studio City--and Rio de Janiero, has released a new album: "Amazon Moon" (Windham Hill Jazz).

This dandy recording spotlights Brazilian-based songs written by the noted R&B/rock composer, Mike Stoller, who with his partner, Jerry Lieber, crafted such hits as "Stand by Me" and "Hound Dog."

"These songs are great. They transform easily into the Brazilian style," said Vergueiro.

The pianist is also playing regularly in our area, delivering both traditional Brazilian fare and tunes off "Amazon Moon" with his group, which features bassist Ricardo do Canto, drummer Pablo Silva e Lima and vocalist Gretchen Parlatto, who all performed on the CD. Vergueiro feels that this band is one of the best he's ever led.

"It's hard to find the right combination of people, and, right now, I think they have that trio magic going," he said.

* Guilherme Vergueiro performs with his group Mondays, 8 p.m., at the Moonlight (13730 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; $5 cover, $10 minimum. (818) 788-2000).

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Visiting Plucker: Danny Embrey is a distinguished guitarist who sports a fluid bop-based melodic style, a round ringing sound and a knack for picking ear-pleasing standards and jazz classics.

Rhythmically assured, Embrey delivers solos that swing with gusto. A former Valley resident, he now lives in Kansas City, so his appearance with fellow ace guitarist John Pisano on the latter's Guitar Series is a boon.

* Danny Embrey is Tuesday's guest for the Guitar Series, 8:30 p.m.-midnight, at Papashon, 15910 Ventura Blvd., Encino; no cover, no minimum. (818) 783-6664.

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