Here's another bright and swinging album by drummer Sherrie Maricle's able quintet, Five Play (a.k.a. DIVA Lite), encumbered at times by questionable mixing but as a whole quite engaging.
For the group's second recording on Arbors, Maricle has assembled an international troupe of all-stars from the larger ensemblealto saxophonist Karolina Strassmayer hails from Austria, tenor Anat Cohen from Israel, bassist Noriko Ueda and drummer Tomoko Ohno from Japanand set aside room for guest shots by two members of DIVA's first-class trumpet section, Jami Dauber and Barbara Laronga, on five selections to lend color and variety to the two-reed front line (and to lend the album its title).
Every member of the group is impressiveCohen, Strassmayer and Ohno especially so on their showcase numbers, Cohen (clarinet) on "That Old Feeling, Strassmayer on "Crazy, He Calls Me, Ohno on the Arlen/Harburg classic from The Wizard of Oz, "If I Only Had a Brain. Dauber frames tasteful solos on Hank Mobley's "Funk in Deep Freeze, Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley's "Pure Imagination, and (muted) Richard Whiting/Sidney Clare's show-stopper for Shirley Temple, "On the Good Ship Lollipop. Laronga does the same on Chick Corea's boppish "Bud Powell and the standard "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning (on which Ueda carries the melody).
Maricle, who swings consistently in the style of her chief role model, the legendary Buddy Rich, bonds with Ohno and Ueda to form a taut and agile rhythm section on which Cohen, Strassmayer and their guests can always lean for support. As for the mixing gaffe alluded to earlier, it affects mainly Strassmayer on the quintet numbers, "Theme from Mr. Broadway and "Polka Dots and Moonbeams, wherein her alto sounds remote and is largely overshadowed by the more prominently recorded rhythm section.
But that's hardly enough to put a damper on the session, which is lively and invigorating from start to finish, with sparkling group interplay and admirable solos by every member of the crew. If you've not heard Five Play before, this is a splendid way to get acquainted.
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 (56:22).