5

Ellen Rowe Octet: Momentum

Jerome Wilson By

Sign in to view read count
At a time when women are gaining more prominence in every field, it's no surprise there are more and more all-female jazz groups popping up. This particular octet, led by pianist Ellen Rowe, takes that a step farther with a CD that delves into women's history. They have recorded a set of Rowe compositions that honor women from the worlds of politics, arts, sports and science who have inspired her.

The album begins with "Ain't I A Woman," dedicated to unsung pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement like Fannie Lou Hamer and Mary Bethune Cook. It's a gospel-tinged strut dominated by a taut rhythm section and greasy sliding horns. Trombonist Melissa Gardner and alto saxophonist Tia Fuller both get space to shine here. "R.F.P.," a tribute to female distance runners, features the saxophones and brass stretching out over Allison Miller's quick paced cymbals. Rowe's piano leads the thick ensemble surges as Fuller and Virginia Mayhew boil over the top.

"The Soul Keepers" is angular boogie woogie dedicated to two great pianists, Mary Lou Williams, and her disciple, Geri Allen. Rowe, who taught beside Allen at the University of Michigan, carries this one, strutting and swinging over an easy-riding groove supplied by Miller and Marion Hayden. Two important musicians from the rock and pop world, Carole King and Joni Mitchell, are acknowledged in "Anthem," . Here Rowe's piano carries a more folkish and quietly powerful sound as it dances with Janelle Reichman 's probing clarinet.

"The First Lady," as you might guess from its subtitle, is about a former First Lady, Michelle Obama. It's a fitting tribute, a gliding, soulful waltz sparked by Miller's excellent drumming. Mayhew's and Ingrid Jensen's fine solos twirl out of a bluesy group sound reminiscent of the various bands led by Charles Mingus and Thad Jones. "The Guardians," for anthropologists Jane Goodall and DIan Fossey, is a ballad with a sense of drama. Lisa Parrott, Mayhew and Jensen all take turns rising to the front of the ensemble. "Game, Set and Match," for sports legends Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, starts with notes pinging back and forth like a tennis volley before settling into a giddy funk groove where the horns dance like a New Orleans street band. Almost everyone takes a sassy, jubilant solo while Hayden's and Miller's beats rock the house. The CD ends with"Song of the Meadowlark," a solo piano piece by Rowe dedicated to her mother, a simple, moving composition played with the clarity and elegance of Duke Ellington.

This disc is a rich and absorbing collection of music. Ellen Rowe is a strong composer and knows how to arrange an octet to sound like a much bigger band. She has also assembled an excellent cast of players and given them room to stretch out and play with passion. The result is a very strong work.

Track Listing: Ain't I A Woman; R.F.P. (Relentless Forward Progress); The Soul Keepers; Anthem; The First Lady (No, Not You, Melania); The Guardians; Game, Set and Match; Song of the Meadowlark.

Personnel: Ellen Rowe: piano; Tia Fuller: alto saxophone; Virginia Mayhew: tenor saxophone; LIsa Parott: baritone saxophone; Janelle Reichman: clarinet (4); Ingrid Jensen: trumpet; Marion Hayden (1, 3, 5, 7), Marlene Rosenberg (2, 4, 6): bass; Allison Miller: drums.

Title: Momentum | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Smokin' Sleddog

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Album Reviews
Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
Read more articles
Momentum

Momentum

Smokin' Sleddog
2019

buy
Momentum: Portraits of Women in Motion

Momentum: Portraits...

Smokin' Sleddog Records
2019

buy
Courage Music

Courage Music

PKO Records
2014

buy
Wishing Well

Wishing Well

PKO Records
2010

buy
Sylvan Way

Sylvan Way

BOPO Records
2003

buy

Related Articles

Read Getz At The Gate Album Reviews
Getz At The Gate
By Chris May
June 19, 2019
Read Keep Talkin' Album Reviews
Keep Talkin'
By Dan McClenaghan
June 19, 2019
Read Night Owl Album Reviews
Night Owl
By Dan Bilawsky
June 19, 2019
Read Let's Play Album Reviews
Let's Play
By Don Phipps
June 19, 2019
Read Hidden Corners Album Reviews
Hidden Corners
By Dan McClenaghan
June 18, 2019
Read Special Album Reviews
Special
By Jakob Baekgaard
June 18, 2019
Read Land Of Real Men Album Reviews
Land Of Real Men
By Friedrich Kunzmann
June 18, 2019