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The DIVA Jazz Orchestra: 25th Anniversary Project

Geannine Reid By

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A 25th Anniversary is a rare event in today's music world, and Sherrie Maricle the leader and driving force behind the DIVA Jazz Orchestra has achieved just that. A vehicle for some of today's most recognized names in jazz, this Orchestra goes beyond the label of an all-female ensemble, it is more about the achievements and heights of each of its players, as a collective sound and a force of significant women who have worked hard for each of their achievements as players and composers.

The celebration fittingly starts with Maricle's big sounding drum set, bringing in the band of DIVAs with the opening track "East Coast Andy" penned by Leigh Pilzer. The melody features the woodwind section, with the brass shouting out all around. There is a nice section of band hits that display just how tightly phrased and uniform a band can be after twenty-five years of playing together. The compositions are marvelous. Each section of the big band gets to show off, from tutti figures, to saxophone soli's, to shout choruses. Jami Dauber's trumpet solo is stirring and full of blues inflections over the medium-tempo, rock solid swing of Maricle and Noriko Ueda. Next the composer takes a ride, Pilzer's baritone saxophone is warm and buzzing with the jazz language. Her pen is on fire, this is an excellent big band composition with full voicings, great backgrounds, and clear counterpoint, all impeccably played by the band. Bam!

Another outstanding composition, which there are many on this album, is Maricle's own, "The Rhythm Changes." This is a show-off piece for the band to display their spectacular phrasing and balance in each section, as a band. The call and response between the brass and woodwinds is stirring, and yes, the rhythm changes, and that's what makes it all the more exciting. Barbara Laronga's trumpet is up first for solos, starting in the warm lower register, she builds to her upper register with delight. Mercedes Beckman's solo is breathtaking, she takes an Eric Dolphy approach to her solo, which adds to the excitement and depth of the performance. I don't like to compare players, but how often do you get to bring Dolphy's name into a review, not often and that is a compliment. Her use of wide intervals, in addition to using an array of extended techniques to phrase various rhythmic groupings over the pulse is Dolphian, as is the slightly abstracted bebop inspired melodic flow against the harmony. Ueda's takes a break from the rock-solid quarter note pule role and delivers a melodic and befitting solo. The energy peaks for Maricle's solo, filled with passion, phrasing, and rhythmic clarity all delivered with clean technique that swings.

What is most shining about this big band, is its collective sound. The precision of each composer's contribution to the project, highlights the unification of mastery by each musician beyond their remarkable playing technique. Together they bond for the overall success of a unified project. This teamwork, is what makes this release head and shoulders in its presentation.

Track Listing: East Coast Andy; Middleground; See Saw; Jami’s Tune; Square One; Darkness of the Matter; Jacovino; La Americana; A Quarter Past the Last Minute; Forever in My Heart; The Rhythm Changes.

Personnel: Sherrie Maricle: drums; Noriko Ueda: bass; Tomoko Ohno: piano; Leslie Havens: bass trombone; Sara Jacovino: trombone; Jennifer Krupa: trombone; Rachel Therrien: trumpet, flugelhorn; Barbara Laronga: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jami Dauber: trumpet, flugelhorn; Liesl Whitaker: trumpet, flugelhorn; Leigh Pilzer: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Erica von Kleist: tenor saxophone; Janelle Reichman: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Mercedes Beckman: alto saxophone, flute, clarinet; Alexa Tarantino: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Marcia Gallas: congas (7).

Title: 25th Anniversary Project | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: ArtistShare

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