How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Often, musicians will put together a collection of songs that honor an era, style or lead instrument. Pianist Linda Presgrave's Inspiration pays tribute to some influential women who helped lay the foundation for herself and other jazz artists.
The collection features 10 songs written by Presgrave and other female artists. The pianist, composer and arranger is accompanied by Harvie S on bass and Allison Miller on drums, with husband/producer Stan Chovnick playing soprano sax on several tracks, and tenor saxophonist Todd Herbert appearing on two.
Melba Liston's "Insomnia" opens the set; an elegant piece featuring Chovnick in the lead, with Presgrave, Harvie S and Miller laying down a charming rhythm accented by Miller's hi-hat. Chovnick keeps it light but moving, with Miller sitting out at the beginning of Presgrave's solo. Piano and bass carry the song forward, but the drama buildings when Miller returns and Presgrave cranks up the intensity, with bass and drums also soloing.
"Bird of Ceret," one of six Presgrave originals, is an easygoing, Sunday drive song. Chovnick's soprano and Miller's rim shots give it that cruising through life kind of feel. The piano solo is one of the more beautiful moments on the album, with bass and drums grooving right along. The soprano comes back with a solo, giving the image of complete freedom.
"Struttin' in Manhattan" is, as the name implies, a delightful metropolitan jaunt. The piano leads, but the drums and bass also shine. Miller signals the start of the bass solo, mixing up her rhythm while Harvie S expresses. Then, piano and bass stop, while Miller puts the entire kit to work. At one point, she does an emphatic snare/toms roll before working the cymbals back in.
Herbert joins the trio on "Holmes for Holmes," a bluesy, film noir selection. The tenor rolls through several multiple-notes-per-second phrases as the rest of the ensemble remains methodical but in low gear while Herbert leads. Bass and drums are subtle during Presgrave's solo.
Whether performing original compositions or a cover, Presgrave and her accompanists are in top form. The selections are long enough to give everyone time to shine as soloists, while not being drawn out. Inspiration doesn't just honor musicians "who happen to be women"; it is music for its own sake.
Track Listing: Insomnia; Evening in Concert; Bird of Ceret; Struttin' in Manhattan; Holmes for Holmes; You Know Who; One for Patricia; Cheap Cheese; Don't Explain; Rome.