The all-female DIVA Jazz Orchesta has a boy-meets-girls story threaded into its origin, as drummer Stanley Kay served as the impetus behind the group's formation. Therefore, it's only fitting that the ladies have a few gentleman over to join them for some high times in the music every now and then.
This eight-song set, recorded live at Pittsburgh's Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in March of 2017, finds clarinetist Ken Peplowski
, dearly departed trumpeter Claudio Roditi
, trombonist Jay Ashby
, and guitarist Marty Ashby
dropping in and adding to the excitement that this longstanding big band typically delivers all on its own. With Diva's leader, Sherrie Maricle
, stoking the flames, some of jazz's world-class women tearing through some fine-tuned charts, and the guests sprinkling their own form(s) of magic on the mix, DIVA + The Boys
proves dynamic from the first.
Opening on bassist Norika Ueda
's arrangement of Benny Goodman
's "Slipped Disc," DIVA quickly makes its mark by recontextualizing swing era sounds in a chipper, choro-esque matrix. Peplowski and Janelle Reichman
take on the King of Swing's mantle, stepping out front as soloists on clarinet and adding a dose of pep to the proceedings. Sticking to Brazilian ideals, the band follows that introductory offering by bringing Roditi and saxophonist Roxy Coss
into the spotlight for a nuanced take on Antonio Carlos Jobim
's "A Felicidade."
From there, DIVA branches out in several different directions while highlighting the skills of its deep roster (and the boys). A swinging "Deference To Diz," nodding to the great Dizzy Gillespie
, of course, features Peplowski, Roditi, pianist Tomoko Ohno, and the song's composer, Jay Ashby; Ivan Lins
' "Noturna" adds a dose of balladic beauty to the playlist, with Ashby's trombone at center stage; a lively jaunt through the Gus Kahn and Isham Jones gem "The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else" beckons with appealing solos from Peplowski, Ohno, and trumpet Jami Dauber
; and Roditi's "Piccolo Blues" presents with bluesy, down-home designs while showcasing the composer's titular trumpet, Alexa Tarantino
's soprano saxophone and Jennifer Krupa's trombone.
The penultimate performance taps into intimacy and longing, as Peplowski's clarinet captivates while playing to romantic memories on Bruno Martino's "Estate." But the grand finalean energetic trip through Plas Johnson
's "Bucket O' Blues"cuts the other way. It's all about joy, and in a big way. A blowing and trading session of a sendoff, it gives pause to admire the handiwork of the reed section and Ohno.
After more than 25 years together, and despite plenty of personnel changes along the way, The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, with or without some company, remains a force to be reckoned with.
Slipped Disc; A Felicidade; Deference to Diz; Noturna; The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else; Piccolo
Blues; Estate; Bucket ‘o Blues.