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Virginia Mayhew Quartet: Mary Lou Williams: The Next 100 Years

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Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth date of pianist, composer and arranger Mary Lou Williams, the Virginia Mayhew Quartet pays homage to one of the most unheralded, yet most important jazz figures of all time on Mary Lou Williams--The Next 100 Years. Presenting new arrangements of eight Williams compositions and two original blues charts, Mayhew directs a formidable quartet of veteran players and special guest, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon to make for a powerful quintet sound on several tracks. A prominent saxophonist, well-known fixture on the New York music scene and Musical Director of the Duke Ellington Legacy ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Virginia Mayhew Quartet: Mary Lou Williams: The Next 100 Years

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Saxophonist Virginia Mayhew is a rare forward-looking jazz artist who doesn't mind looking back. She leads the Duke Ellington Legacy, responsible for the superb Thank You Uncle Edward (Renma Recordings, 2007) and Single Pedal of a Rose (Renma Recordings, 2012). Now she honors Mary Lou Williams (1910-1983) in this tribute to the groundbreaking pianist/composer/arranger's one hundredth birthday.Williams could be considered underrated, but there are efforts to remedy that: pianist Geri Allen recorded a quartet version of a Williams' tribute with Celebrating Mary Lou Williams (Intakt Records, 2011), and more recently Sumi Tonooka offered up “Mary Lou Williams Medley," ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Virginia Mayhew: A Simple Thank You

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Virginia Mayhew has been a part of the New York City jazz scene since 1987 when the San Francisco native enrolled in the New School's Jazz Performance program and was awarded its Zoot Sims Memorial Scholarship. The tenor saxophonist played with a variety of bandleaders including Earl “Fatha" Hines, Al Grey, Junior Mance, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Joe Williams, Clark Terry, Terry Gibbs, Kenny Barron and Claudio Roditi, as well as being a key soloist in the all-female big band Diva. A Simple Thank You is Mayhew's fifth release as a leader; it celebrates her return to recording following ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Virginia Mayhew Septet: A Simple Thank You

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It has always been a pleasure to see saxophonist Virginia Mayhew in performance and enjoy her original compositions, which present solid material which she plays with warmth, grace and the best that mainstream jazz can offer on both tenor and soprano sax.

Mayhew had to face a definite speed bump in her musical career when breast cancer developed and this project was put on hold. Thankfully, all is well now and she has a finely-tuned album to show for her efforts. The presence of five horns in the group makes this project a bit different--a distinctive “little big ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Virginia Mayhew: A Simple Thank You

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The soul of an artist reverberates through the music. Virginia Mayhew (tenor and soprano saxophones) fills her playing with warmth, tenderness and an unmitigated passion. Her recordings have marked these traits, making them a veritable joy. She continues the trend here, with an expanded line-up that gives the music a greater dimension. It's the first septet she has worked with, and the whole band plays with and off each other, demonstrating remarkable empathy.

The music comprises new tunes as well as those Mayhew has recorded earlier. The latter come back to haunt the listener all over again, such is the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Virginia Mayhew Septet: A Simple Thank You

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This is about the coolest cover art you'll ever see on a CD: Saxophonist Virginia Mayhew in blue tones, as bald as an egg (cancer treatments), in partial profile, eyes closed, in an apparent state of repose. She looks like a sleek android discovered in arctic ice. Cool as hell.The music on Mayhew's fifth CD, A Simple Thank You, is every bit as cool as the cover art. There's nothing android-ish about Mayhew's step into arranging, writing and playing for a larger ensemble than she used in her previous CDs, Phantoms (Renma Recordings, 2003) and Sandan Shuffle (Renman ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Virginia Mayhew: Sandan Shuffle

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Convention bores Virginia Mayhew. So it's no surprise that Sandan Shuffle, her fourth release as a leader, doesn't merely embrace the unconventional, but seizes it in a bear hug. Right at the top, the blues-inspired title track is played seven to the bar, not eight and Mayhew's tenor grooves like mad. Her sax smiles throughout an inventive Calypso arrangement of “Let's Fall In Love, with Kenny Wessel laying down cool guitar lines. Bassist Harvie S contributes the song “Now I Know, a ballad in the fine tradition of the Charlie Haden Quartet, and Mayhew wraps her deep ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Virginia Mayhew: Sandan Shuffle

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I had a chance to see Virginia Mayhew a few years ago in a sideman gig where she appeared as part of an all-femme quintet backing a singer. From memory, the other musicians were Allison Miller, Kendra Shank and Roberta Picket. My recollection of Mayhew's performance was that she was clearly the most pressing reason to be there. She displayed strong and melodic playing on tenor sax, plus a few numbers on soprano sax. There was nothing tentative about Mayhew's presentation; a sure-footed style cast her into a field of many better-known saxophonists. She also performed “Montererey Blues," a piece ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Virginia Mayhew: Sandan Shuffle

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Who's this Virginia Mayhew woman anyway, Dexter Gordon's daughter? Sonny Rollins' niece? She plays the saxophone like a blood relative of those two giants on Sandan Shuffle. Actually, we know the reedist well from her standout 2003 effort, Phantoms, as an artist who has embraced the mainstream mode and ridden it with vigor and supreme assurance into the top level of straight-ahead saxophonists.Since Dexter Gordon's name came up, Mayhew opens the disc with the original title tune, which features her tenor sax sounding strong and loose and relaxed, Gordon-like, over a bouncing rhythm. This good-time composition is about ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Virginia Mayhew: Sandan Shuffle

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Virginia Mayhew has a third degree black belt in karate, a level known as sandan. Thus the title of her newest release. The exciting music on Sandan Shuffle is turned around and played with a loquacious spirit, swinging with a delightful sensibility and even shuffling.

Mayhew's tone is deep, dark and flinty. Even as she carves a burnished edge, she pours warmth and emotion into the music. She has a sense of fun too, and she wastes no time in getting that detail into the open. Enter “Sandan Shuffle. The melody grabs the ear, and when Mayhew embarks on her ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Virginia Mayhew: Sandan Shuffle

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Karate requires discipline and hard work. So does effective musicianship.

Most of the martial arts require fast, aggressive motions that are accompanied by slower, more controlled moves. Sometimes, the hand must stop at precisely the right place or someone will get hurt. This requires constant practice.

So does playing the saxophone. And Virginia Mayhew does that very well. She also has a third degree black belt in karate (sandan). Her study of the martial arts and her study of the saxophone go hand in hand--in both areas, she learns to control her mind and body in ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Virginia Mayhew: Phantoms

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Virginia Mayhew's previous recording, No Walls (Foxhaven, 2000) , introduced the saxophonist in a big way to the jazz public. It was her third recording overall, being preceded by Nina Green (Chiaroscuro, 1997) and It's Time for Virginia Mayhew (Philology, 1996). Ms. Mayhew has established herself at the forefront of tenor/soprano saxophonists and composers and rests on the edge of greatness. Her saxophone style is made up of generous portions of Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, and Charles Lloyd. She is a facile composer, steeping her compositions with wit and humor while remaining dead serious about her duty to the music. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Virginia Mayhew: Phantoms

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Saxophonist Virginia Mayhew goes with the pianoless quartet on Phantoms, her third CD as a leader--a format that allows the space and freedom for the band to stretch out. They make the most of the opportunity. Without the comping and chording of the piano, each of the four instrumentalists has to contribute to keeping the music alive and vibrant. The biggest drawback to this format is the potential for a lack of texture; but Mayhew's Phantoms has the intricate weave that comes from a band that has worked together. One word: arrangements--a solist steps out front, the backing ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Virginia Mayhew: No Walls

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Lee Morgan blowing out of the bell of a Tenor saxophone.

this disc is what you would think Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers would sound like had that great musician not passed on. This is a progressive Hard Bop delight from Saxophonist Virginia Mayhew on her follow-up to Nini Green. The set opens with a jaunty original blues featuring an incandescent Mayhew and an almost subdued Ingrid Jensen (who catches fire later on John Coltrane's “Grand Central". The extraordinary Kenny Barron shines throughout, especially on the ballad “Never Enough" and his own “Mythology".

What highlights this excellent set is the interplay ...



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