The Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet performs in the same stylistic arena of the The Manhattan Transfer and Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. There. It has been said; and now we have that out of the way. The UVJQ has been active for the past two decades under the direction of Ginny Carr. They are based in the Washington DC area and have two recordings to their credit before Hustlin' For A Gig.
Inhabiting the same orbit as the Manhattan Transfer, while challenging for attention, is not insurmountable for the group. Carr and company concentrate their efforts on original material written by Carr or standards arranged by the leader. Hustlin' For A Gig is comprised predominantly of originals by Carr with a token standard arranged by Carr ("This Is The Life"). While perhaps not novel, what Carr does here is compose vocalese without solo instrument precedent. She captures the talent of Eddie Jefferson in the disc opener "He Was The Cat." Clever vocalese lyrics coupled with a complex line and a killing band make this piece sing.
The title piece follows with lyrics for the two reproduced in the gatefold of the digipak (all lyrics available on the band's website.) Bassist Max Miller provides a Marcus Miller-like electric bass, giving this bop-inflected piece a modern sheen. His solo is informed poetry, funky and solidswinging. The (almost) period pieces work the best. "Spreadin' Your Love All Over The Place" is a bluesy piece that recalls Sanford-Townsend Band's "Smoke From A Distant Fire."
"Java Junkie," while predictable as a jazz subject, swings hard with the most clever lyrics of the recital. The quartet is in full harmonic force singing of Starbucks and bottom feeders and doomed love in the early morning, with a cray-cray Dixieland break. This is fun music...intended that way.
Track Listing: He Was The Cat; Hustlin’ For A Gig; Gone Gone Gone; I’ll Remember Why;
Caught You Spreadin’ Your Love All Over The Place; This Is The Life; A
Million Miles; Java Junkie; Now I have This; You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.
Personnel: Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet: Ginny Carr; Robert McBride; Andre Enceneat;
Holly Shockey. Frank Russo: drums, percussion; Max Murray: bass; Alan
Blackman: piano, Fender Rhodes; Steve Herberman: guitar; Chris Vadala:
alto saxophone, clarinet; Leigh Pilzer: tenor saxophone, bass saxophone;
Chris Walker: trumpet; Jen Krupa: Trombone; Ginny Carr: keyboards.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.