How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Saxophonist Virginia Mayhew's first recording as a leader, 1998's Nini Green, was one of the best-reviewed debuts of that year. Her follow-up, No Walls , is another winner, a set of top-flight modern jazz combining challenging compositions and exciting improvisations from a stellar cast of musicians.
Mayhew, a veteran of a dozen years on the New York scene and a former member of the great trombonist Al Grey's band, is a versatile performer equally at ease on tenor and soprano saxophones. Her sensibilites as a player and writer are thoroughly straight-ahead, but hardly predictable, ranging from the funky blues of the opener "Hi-Ya, Mama," to the plaintive "Never Enough," featuring some beautiful solos from the always remarkable Kenny Barron on piano. Along with four Mayhew originals, the album's highlights include a Latinesque take on Dave Holland's "The Oracle"; a romp through John Coltrane's "Grand Central," with plenty of room for hard blowing from Mayhew on tenor and Ingrid Jensen on trumpet; and a memorable Mayhew-Barron duet on the classic Duke Ellington ballad, "Don't You Know I Care (Or Don't You Care to Know?"). The title cut is a haunting, tender original by veteran bassist Harvie Swartz, who anchors the sextet's rhythm section.
With No Walls , Mayhew proves again that as a performer, composer and band leader, she's approaching the upper echelon of jazz artists. Well worth checking out.
Track Listing: Hi-ya Mama, Apple Flambe, The Visit We Missed, Never Enough, The Oracle, Grand Central, No Walls, Don't You Know I Care (Or Don't You Care to Know?, Mythology.
Personnel: Virginia Mayhew, tenor and soprano saxophones; Ingrid Jensen, trumpet; Kenny Barron, piano; Harvie Swartz, bass; Allison Miller, drums; Adam Cruz, percussion.
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