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Convention bores Virginia Mayhew. So it's no surprise that Sandan Shuffle, her fourth release as a leader, doesn't merely embrace the unconventional, but seizes it in a bear hug.
Right at the top, the blues-inspired title track is played seven to the bar, not eight and Mayhew's tenor grooves like mad. Her sax smiles throughout an inventive Calypso arrangement of "Let's Fall In Love, with Kenny Wessel laying down cool guitar lines. Bassist Harvie S contributes the song "Now I Know, a ballad in the fine tradition of the Charlie Haden Quartet, and Mayhew wraps her deep tone dreamily around the melody. Mayhew's fluid soprano works in fine tandem with Wessel's chops on "Spring Is Not Here ; she brightens up the melody as though she's glad spring hasn't arrived! "Jazz-like opens with a Sam Spade type of theme with Mayhew's muscular tenor setting the pace.
The wonderful "I Thought You Loved Me shows Mayhew's touch at composing a ballad. The song brings Coltrane's "Acknowledgement to mind, with its opening tenor statement, pizzicato bridge and extended statement by Mayhew. The band completely funks up Monk's "In Walked Bud, maintaining the original 4/4 meter but giving it an R&B character, thanks to Victor Jones' downright nasty drumming.
Mayhew's tone is gorgeous on her 5/4 arrangement of "Tenderly and Wessel extracts lovely nuggets from the nooks and crannies of the melody. Mayhew's sad intonation and impeccable phrasing on the soprano underscore the false bravado of "I Can Get Along Without You Very Well, and she reprises her "Monterey Blues, featured on Phantoms (2003), with Wessel's guitar giving it a different flavor and character. Mayhew plays with robustness and confidenceshe's always sounded good, but on Sandan Shuffle she's never sounded better.
Track Listing: Sandan Shuffle; Let's Fall In Love; Now I Know; Spring Is Not Here; Jazz-like; I Thought You Loved Me; In Walked Bud; Tenderly; I Get Along Without You Very Well; Monterey Blues.
Personnel: Virginia Mayhew: tenor and soprano saxophones, guiro;
Kenny Wessel: guitar;
Harvie S: bass;
Victor "Yahya" Jones: drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.