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DIVA Jazz Orchestra / Paul Read Orchestra / Andy Farber and His Orchestra

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DIVA Jazz Orchestra

Johnny Mandel: The Man and His Music

Arbors Jazz

2010

Note to NARAS members: please do not cast your vote for Best Big Band Album of 2011 without first having listened to Johnny Mandel
Johnny Mandel
Johnny Mandel
b.1925
arranger
: The Man and His Music,
recorded in concert at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in Manhattan by the superlative DIVA Jazz Orchestra with guest vocalist Ann Hampton Callaway
Ann Hampton Callaway
Ann Hampton Callaway
b.1959
vocalist
. Great as the band is on every number, Callaway almost steals the show on "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" and "Ain't Nobody's Business," both with DIVA, and Mandel's heart-rending "Where Do You Start," accompanying herself at the piano. What a fantastic singer she is! As icing on the cake, if indeed any were needed, the conductor for the occasion is none other than Johnny Mandel himself who provides the narrative framework for a number of his memorable songs including "Close Enough for Love," "Emily," the "Theme from M*A*S*H" and "The Shadow of Your Smile."

Emcee Todd Barkan introduces Mandel as "one of the greatest composers and arrangers that American music has ever been graced by," a sentiment that almost no one would impugn, as his remarkable body of work speaks clearly for itself. Besides the tunes already mentioned, DIVA quenches a pair of Mandel's incendiary jazz compositions, "Low Life" (written for the Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
Orchestra) and the classic "Not Really the Blues" (penned for Woody Herman
Woody Herman
Woody Herman
1913 - 1987
band/orchestra
's renowned Second Herd). Mandel also wrote the zesty "Cinnamon and Clove" along with two jazz-based excerpts, "Black Nightgown" and the main theme music, from the film "I Want to Live!" and arranged "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," "Ain't Nobody's Business" and drummer Tiny Kahn's propulsive "TNT." DIVA nails each one as handily as a carpenter assembling a rampart.

The orchestra's peerless leader, drummer Sherrie Maricle, is a pinnacle of strength and stability throughout, as are her section mates, pianist Tomoko Ohno, bassist Noriko Ueda
Noriko Ueda
Noriko Ueda

bass, acoustic
and guitarists Sheryl Bailey
Sheryl Bailey
Sheryl Bailey
b.1966
guitar, electric
or Dida Pelled
Dida Pelled
b.1988
guitar
. Brass and reeds are exemplary, even without the presence of a number of stalwarts who have moved on to bigger and better things since DIVA was founded in 1992. The album is dedicated to the late Stanley Kay, a onetime "assistant drummer" for the incomparable Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
1917 - 1987
drums
who died shortly after it was recorded. It was Kay whose vision of an all-female band led to DIVA's formation and whose friendship with Mandel enabled the composer to become aware of DIVA's impressive talents and to record this extraordinary album with the orchestra.

Having mentioned the various sections, it should be noted that DIVA boasts a number of splendid soloists, most of whom are given at least one chance to shine. Among the standouts are tenors Janelle Reichman (whose clarinet enhances "Close Enough for Love") and Leigh Pilzer, trumpeter Nadje Noordhuis ("The Shadow of Your Smile"), alto Sharel Cassity
Sharel Cassity
Sharel Cassity

saxophone
("Cinnamon and Clove"), baritone Nicki and Lisa Parrott (sitting in for Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
1927 - 1996
sax, baritone
on "I Want to Live!"), Reichman and pianist Ohno ("Theme from M*A*S*H"). Eleven members of the band spread their wings and fly on "TNT"—Cassity, Noodhuis, Parrott, Reichman, trumpeters Tanya Darby, Jami Dauber and Christine Fawson, trombonists Deborah Weisz
Deborah Weisz
Deborah Weisz

trombone
, Jennifer Krupa and Sara Jacovino
Sara Jacovino
b.1983
trombone
, and alto Lynn Gruenwald. Bailey, Dauber, Reichman and Pilzer are out front on "Low Life," Reichman, Krupa and Pilzer on "Not Really the Blues." Among many highlights, that flag-waver stands above the rest, courtesy of Mandel's great writing and the spirit and power of the ensemble and soloists.

DIVA, which already has half a dozen impressive albums to its credit, has produced another unequivocal winner with Johnny Mandel: The Man and His Music. To be candid, having started with those basic ingredients and added the electrifying voice of Ann Hampton Callaway, the outcome was never in doubt.

Paul Read Orchestra

Arc-en-ciel

Addo Records

2010

With the Boss Brass gone and trombonist Dave McMurdo's orchestra not as active as it once was, composer / educator Paul Read
Paul Read
Paul Read
b.1948
piano
has stepped forward to help temper Canada's big band void with Arc-en-ciel, the inaugural recording by the Paul Read Jazz Orchestra, whose sidemen number no less than half a dozen Boss Brass / McMurdo alumni. Read's compositions, while lyrical and good-natured, are by no means lacking in strength or substance. Every element is carefully planned, the charts snuggle or swing as needed, and the orchestra performs each one with alacrity and awareness.

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