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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 spell the band casts.
Mayhew wrote all but two of the tunes. She has a fine sense for melody that gives the compositions an immediate appeal. The arrangements take each song out and develop them through the solo spots and the ensemble lines, bringing in swing and open development with facile ease.
Mayhew fills "Just a Blues" with several elements. She brings in bop phrases made tart with acerbic lines. Her playing gets edgy, but she then turns in a neat surprise making a move into swing. It's all done with remarkable ease. Kenny Wessel (guitar) continues to swing before coating the progression with bop phrases. The shifting evolution bloods the tune and makes it tantalizing.
"Live Your Life," a ballad, has an intrinsic passion carved on Mayhew's tenor saxophone, whose key phrasing imbues the strength. She receives strong and emphatic support from drummer Victor Jones and bassist Harvie S.
The ensemble lines of "Spring is Not Here" are lush and move in smooth unison. That appetizer disintegrates and the musicians diverge from the center. Mayhew enunciates with short phrases on the soprano saxophone. Scott Harrell turns it over on the flugelhorn, his textures making the harmony more dynamic. The timbre is in continuous flux, the pulse is never static, but the underlying glow of the tune remains right through.
Track Listing: Just a Blues; One For the Parking Fairy; Spring is Not Here; A Simple Thank You; Rhythm-a-Ning; Apple Flambe; I Thought You Loved Me; Live Your Life; Sandan Shuffle.
Personnel: Virginia Mayhew: tenor and soprano saxophones; Harvie S: bass; Victor Jones: drums; Kenny Wessel: guitar; Noah Bless: trombone; Scott Harrell: trumpet and flugelhorn; Lisa Parrott: alto and baritone saxophones; Mayra Casales: percussion; Ingrid Jensen: trumpet.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.