Long known as an inventive pianist and a skilled composer, a year ago Cecilia Coleman also became a significant big band leader. She told her friend trumpeter-music publisher Don Sickler that she would love to write some big band arrangements and asked for his thoughts. The most helpful thing that Don said to me was to make sure that I start with a sketch. I looked at my arrangements for my quintet and realized that they were all potential sketches for a big band. I wrote two arrangements right away and then it snowballed.
I first met Cecilia when I toured Los Angeles with T.S. Monk, recalls Sickler. I had heard that she was a great writer. After she moved to New York, it turned out that she lived three blocks from me so we became better acquainted. She is a marvelous and dedicated pianist with a great touch, she reads everything, is very easy to work with, and is dead serious about music. She has written 30 or 40 arrangements for her orchestra and is a bonafide big band composer with something original to say.
After having written many arrangements in a short period of time, Cecilia naturally wanted to hear what the music sounded like, so she started her own big band in Jan. 2010. What essentially started as a rehearsal band quickly turned into a serious endeavor due in large part to the overwhelming support I received from the musicians I work with and have met these past 12 years. After rehearsals, they would call or write me and say how much they enjoyed my music and tell me that I had to keep this going, that it was something new and different. They have been so supportive and enthusiastic which makes this very rewarding for me. The big band has become the love of my life.
Cecilia has a completely fresh approach to big band writing. It is not the same old thing and I am grateful to be a part of it. Besides, she\'s the nicest band leader I ever worked with. - bass trombonist Joe Randazzo.
The 18-piece Cecilia Coleman Big Band, which includes six saxophonists including a soprano player, has a regular gig at the Garage in Greenwich Village. They have also played at the Zinc Bar, Fat Cat, the St. Peters Jazz at Midday concert series, and the Baha\'i Center. Oh Boy, the orchestra\'s debut recording, is scheduled to be released in September on the Interplay label.
Cecilia has done a lot of work for me, says Sickler. She asked me to produce her new big band CD. It is so hard to have a big band these days but she works very hard, is determined to do this thing and will never give up.
It seems like each time we get together to rehearse, there are a few more charts in the book. She\'s always keeping us on our toes! - tenor-saxophonist Geoff Vidal.
I have worked with Cecilia for many years, in Los Angeles, and here in New York, and she has always displayed unwavering courage, consistency and conviction in her playing and writing. - valve trombonist Mike Fahn.
Cecilia Coleman had already had an impressive career not only prior to forming her big band but before moving to New York. Born and raised in Long Beach, California, she began on the piano when she was five. Her piano teacher was open to all types of music so Cecilia played jazz from an early age. Later on she studied extensively with vibraphonist Charlie Shoemake and was soon being hired to play on some of his jobs. A jazz piano major in college, Cecilia took arranging lessons from Tom Kubis at Golden West College which gave her a strong foundation for her writing. She graduated from Cal State University at Long Beach, played with Kubis\' big band, was a staff accompanist at Orange Coast College, became a fixture in several Los Angeles area clubs, performed at festivals, and developed her own original voice as a pianist. In the 1990s she led a trio with bassist Eric Von Essen and drummer Kendall Kay, and headed a quintet that featured trumpeter Steve Huffsteter, saxophonist Andy Suzuki, bassist Dean Taba and Kendall Kay. Cecilia had opportunities to work with the groups of bassist Henry Franklin, arranger Mark Masters, and trombonist Jimmy Cleveland. Most significant were the many engagements that she performed with tenor-saxophonist Benn Clatworthy\'s quartet. She recorded as a leader (Words Of Wisdom, Young And Foolish, Home) and with Clatworthy, Henry Franklin and Dan St. Marseille. In 1998 Cecilia Coleman moved to New York, having a gig her very first night in the city and keeping busy ever since. She became the accompanist for the Modern Dance Center of Westchester, flies back to California to teach at Cal State Long Beach every ten days during the school year, has written commissioned pieces for professional modern dance companies, regularly tours England with Benn Clatworthy, and works as a sideman in various groups like the Chip White Sextet, Chuck Braman Quintet and her own small groups. She also recorded several CDs including Higher Standards with her trio, and a pair of quintet albums: The Imposter and Images. She also made CDs arranger and composer Mark Masters, Angelo Deniro and Meredith D\'Ambrosio (Wishing On The Moon).
Cecilia is always bringing in new works for her big band. This, along with her unique and personal writing style, add up to a gratifying adventure. - baritone saxophonist Frank Basile.
Thoroughly enjoying leading her orchestra and determined to build upon its success, Cecilia Coleman looks towards the future with enthusiasm. We are looking to get sponsorship for the big band, conduct clinics and perform at festivals. While we enjoy playing in New York, I would love for us to play elsewhere too. With the release of Oh Boy and the continuous flow of inventive works from its leader, it seems only a matter of time before the Cecilia Coleman Big Band becomes a major musical force.