It has always been a pleasure to see saxophonist Virginia Mayhew in performance and enjoy her original compositions, which present solid material which she plays with warmth, grace and the best that mainstream jazz can offer on both tenor and soprano sax.
Mayhew had to face a definite speed bump in her musical career when breast cancer developed and this project was put on hold. Thankfully, all is well now and she has a finely-tuned album to show for her efforts. The presence of five horns in the group makes this project a bit differenta distinctive "little big band" sound reminiscent of the various ensembles that pianist/composer/arranger Duke Pearson recorded in decades past for Blue Note.
Mayhew has always had a kinship with jazz-playing female artists and this project is no different, with the inclusion of saxophonist Lisa Parrott, percussionist Mayra Casales and old colleague Ingrid Jensen on trumpet. The rhythm section is the same as on her last outing, Sandan Shuffle (Renma, 2006), with bassist Harvie S and drummer Victor Jones. Added to the mix are guitarist Kenny Wessel, trombonist Noah Bless and trumpeter/flugelhornist Scott Harrell.
Although Mayhew has written most of the album's tunes, the opening "Just A Blues," from Mike Mayhall, creates a most pleasant beginning, with short but very effective solos from altoist Parrot, tenorist Mayhew and guitarist Wessel. On Mayhew's "One for the Parking Fairy," highlights include a tasty trombone solo from Bless and some cooking percussion from Casales. For "Spring is Not Here" another Mayhew original, the soprano sax work is outstanding, then joined by Scott Harrell's flugelhorn. Throughout the album, Parrott's work on baritone sax is great fun.
Mayhew revisits "Sandan Shuffle" and "Apple Flambe" from previous albums, and it's a good indication of the sturdiness of her writing that they can be frequent visitors to the recorded Mayhew oeuvre without any sense of repetition. The finished album is a testament to the saxophonist's skills as a player, composer and arranger.
Personnel: Virginia Mayhew: tenor and soprano saxophones; Harvie S: bass; Noah Bless: trombone; Scott Harrell: trumpet and flugelhorn; Lisa Parrott: alto and baritone saxophones; Kenny Wessel: guitars; Mayra Casales: percussion (2); Ingrid Jensen: trumpet (4, 7).