How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
On the Brink (Arbors, 1999), the premiere effort from drummer Sherry Maricle's DIVA Big Band extraction Five Play, left no doubt that this all-female quintet can swing powerfully and bop across a broad musical spectrum. Maricle's upfront rhythms and the double alto attack of Karoline Strassmeyer and Laura Dreyer demonstrated a tight in-the-pocket sound that was crisp and polished. Although female jazz drummers and horn players are still a rarity in most quarters, the ensuing years have seen an ever-increasing number of quality offerings from women musicians reviewed in these pages. Five Play's sophomore statement, ...Plus, can now be added to this growing list.
Both Maricle and Strassmeyer are back, while Dreyer's alto has been replaced by the wonderfully rich tenor of Israeli-born/New York-based Anat Cohen. In addition, pianist Tomoko Ohno and bassist Noriko Ueda complete the decidedly international fivesome. Special appearances by trumpeters Jami Dauber and Barbara Laronga on selected cuts make it obvious that the band has taken the opportunity to stretch out creatively while still maintaining that hot sound.
Dave Brubeck's "Theme from Mr. Broadway opens things up with a sweet alto/tenor voicing that is quickly buttressed by Maricle's driving drums, allowing Cohen and Strassmeyer to trade solos. Cohen's arrangement of "That Old Feeling has her evincing a surprisingly luscious light touch on clarinet, and her reworking of Willy Wonka's "Pure Imagination includes creative changes and delightful piano improv from Ohno.
It's Strassmeyer's turn to display her arranging skills on a swinging funky version of "Funk in a Deep Freeze (showcasing Dauber's trumpet) and Chick Corea's homage "Bud Powell. The latter's pumping Ueda bass, Latin percussive break, and Laronga horn solo dueling with the saxophones is right on the button. A touchingly tender extended version of "Crazy He Calls Me and novel presentations of "On the Good Ship Lollypop and the Wizard of Oz scarecrow classic "If I Only Had a Brain make this session worthy of repeated listenings.
Track Listing: Theme from Mr. Broadway; That Old Feeling; Funk in Deep Freeze; Crazy, He Calls Me; If I
Only Had a Brain; Polka Dots and Moonbeams; Pure Imagination; Bud Powell; In the Wee
Small Hours of the Morning; On the Good Ship Lollipop.