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The Diva Jazz Orchestra: 25th Anniversary Project

Hrayr Attarian By

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The Diva Orchestra, with its vibrant sound and stellar soloists, is one of the premier large ensembles in jazz today. It also happens to be one of the few made up entirely of women. Therefore, it is both a creative hot bed for talented musicians and a forum for female instrumentalists, who remain sorely underexposed, to express themselves. The 25th Anniversary Project is an intriguing set of ten originals by various members of band that highlights their inventive and imaginative artistry.

For instance, alto saxophonist Alexa Tarantino's cinematic "Square One" opens with fascinating dramatic tension. Trumpeter Rachel Therrien embellishes the melody with suave agility as she blows her Flugelhorn with warmth and slow, simmering passion. A delightfully riotous collective performance follows, setting the stage for Tarantino and her fluid and muscular improvisation.

Elsewhere baritone saxophonist Leigh Pilzer's whimsical and energetic "East Coast Andy" features lively exchanges among various instruments. These form an exciting and colorful backdrop for the trumpeter Jami Dauber's lyrical and emotive spontaneous lines. Pilzer takes her turn in the spotlight with expressive phrases and vivid tones. Drummer Sherrie Maricle propels the tune with fervor and sophistication.

Maricle's own "The Rhythm Changes" closes this superb album with exuberance. Hard swinging and fiery refrains overlap to create the piece's framework. Trumpeter Barbara Laronga solos with high notes and lithe lines. Saxophonist Mercedes Beckman follows with flittering acrobatics that stimulate and satisfy. The horns punctuate bassist Noriko Ueda's eloquent soliloquy and Maricle engages the various sections of the orchestra with her thunderous polyrhythms and ushers in the moving and riotous conclusion.

Other noteworthy moments include woodwind player Janelle Reichman 's bittersweet clarinet monologue on her own, eastern flavored "Middleground." The composition also showcases pianist Tomoko Ohno's cascading and resonant chords.

This recording is the result of a quarter century of artistic maturation that has crystalized in an exquisite display of high caliber musicianship. Thanks to Maricle's dynamic leadership the group continues to captivate and thrill.

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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