What do you get when you have fifteen talented and swinging female jazz musicians in an orchestral setting? The answer, drummer Sherrie Maricle and the DIVA Jazz Orchestra offering A Swingin' Life as proof that hard-charging big band music is not the exclusivity of the male gender. Building upon the work of more than a dozen previous albums, DIVA presents music from the Great American Songbook and more, capturing eleven audacious tracks recorded live by Jazz at Lincoln Center at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola in New York and, at the renowned Manchester Craftsman's Guild in Pittsburgh.
Adding to the experience of these live performances are two very special guests, two giants of the business, two vocalists who have left their mark on the jazz world. Legendary singers Marlena Shaw and Nancy Wilson lend their vocal charm on five beautiful charts and while some are certainly swinging tracks for sure, there are a couple of ballads that take your breath away. Wilson takes the Van Heusen/Sammy Cahn standard "All My Tomorrows," to another level expressing heart-felt emotion as the band plays humbly. Vocalist Shaw lays down a warm and gentle performance delivering a fantastic interpretation of Alec Wilder's "Blackberry Winter" for the two soft spots of the album.
However, the limited tender material here is the exception and not the rule as the swinging times obviously carry the date. Opening up with a rousing rendition of Burt Bacharach's "What The World Need Now Is Love," the DIVA's announce their intentions with a full blast of the brass and reeds capped off by a solo from tenor saxophonist Janelle Reichman . Appearing once again as one of the main soloist, Reichman, this time on the clarinet, joins trumpeter Jami Dauber on the Stanley Kay piece "Nothin,'" another perky burner showcasing the band.
On another of the few light tunes, Nadje Noordhuis on the flugelhorn is simply enchanting on the time-honored Ray Noble classic "The Very Thought of You" as Maricle is heard on the soft brushes making this number, one to remember. The group gets back to some hard-driving sounds on the swinging version of "Pennies from Heaven." Maricle and the girls get real bluesy on "Blues Medley," a fusion of "Going to Chicago Blues," "Kansas City," and "Every Day I have the Blues," featuring singer Shaw.
The DIVAs show their powerful instrumental voices on the last three tunes showcasing their reach on "Wonder Why," "Nocturne #6 Opus 9, Number 2," and the Terry Gibbs arranged finale "Blues For Harp," demonstrating quite ably why this orchestra is regarded as one of the best jazz bands in the business. Kudos to Sherrie Maricle and the DIVA Jazz Orchestra as they roar through a splendid repertoire of big band jazz on A Swingin' Life, combining instrumental muscle with the elegant vocals in a live setting that is thankfully, documented well here.
What The World Need Now Is Love; Nothin'; All My Tomorrows; All of Me; The Very Thought of You; Pennies From Heaven; Blues Medley [Goin' To Chicago Blues; Kansas City; Every Day I Have the Blues]; Blackberry Winter; Wonder Why; Nocturne #6 Opus9, Number 2; Blues For Hamp.
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