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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 a 2005 bout with breast cancer, which she acknowledges with a striking cover photo of her bald head taken while she underwent chemotherapy. Her septet includes bassist Harvie S (who has worked with her for over a decade), guitarist Kenny Wessel, drummer Victor Jones, trumpeter/flugelhornist Scott Harrell, trombonist Noah Bless and saxophonist Lisa Parrott, who doubles on alto and baritone.
Once again Mayhew plays soprano sax in addition to her usual tenor, but the deeper textures with the expanded horn section give it fuller sound. The leader revisits her composition "Spring is Not Here," which appeared on Sandan Shuffle (Renma, 2005). Mayhew's "One For the Parking Fairy" is an infectious Latin-flavored number that adds guest Latin percussionist Mayra Casales. Harvie S' title track is an engaging ballad showcasing Mayhew on tenor and guest trumpeter Ingrid Jensen; the latter also appears in the leader's "I Thought You Loved Me," a piece introduced in a slow dramatic setting before transforming into a brisk 3/4 groove. Her fresh, funky arrangement of Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-a-Ning" is a light-hearted cooker. This is easily Virginia Mayhew's best recording to date.
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; Noah Bless: trombone; Scott Harrell: trumpet and flugelhorn; Lisa Parrott: alto and baritone saxophones; Kenny Wessel: guitars; Mayra Casales: percussion (2, 8); Ingrid Jensen: trumpet (4, 7).
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.