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Monika Herzig: Sheroes

Hrayr Attarian By

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Pianist and composer Monika Herzig pays tribute to women in jazz, on her captivating Sheroes. The artistically superlative, all-female band explores various cadences, harmonies and moods on this exquisite album, all the while deftly maintaining thematic unity.

Eight of the tracks are originals by ensemble members, and two are Herzig-arranged covers. These are the traditional "House of the Rising Sun" and singer-songwriter Valerie Simpson's (of Ashford/Simpson fame) classic "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

The latter opens with Herzig's resonant, acerbic keys setting the soulful ambience, and features guitarist Leni Stern and her wailing, blistering lines. In addition to Stern's fiery performance, bassist Jennifer Vincent expresses herself with agile eloquence. The excitement and passion come to a head with thunderous exchanges between drummer Rosa Avila and percussionist Mayra Casales.

Vincent's own complex, boppish "Song for CC" highlights another synergistic duo, flautist Jamie Baum and trombonist Reut Regev. Baum and Regev play the intricate melody with lithe sophistication. As they take their turn in the spotlight, their overlapping soliloquies are delightfully divergent yet refreshingly collaborative. Vincent, Avila and Casales create the expectant and darkly-hued rhythmic bridge to Herzig's expressive and angular extemporization.

Herzig's romantic and tender "Nancy Wilson Portrait" opens with trumpeter Ingrid Jensen's warm, bluesy phrases undulating in an intimate atmosphere. Jensen stretches out, embellishing the tune with grace and elegance, while Herzig's dense chords, Avila's soft brushes and Vincent's reverberating strings provide a supportive framework. Herzig follows with a superbly lyrical and subtly virtuosic solo that brims with creative spontaneity.

In contrast, the leader's funky "Just Another Day at the Office," is full of urbane energy and muscular swagger. Tenor saxophonist Ada Rovatti blows with a full-bodied tone, playing an intelligent and stimulating improvisation over the group's percolating vamps.

This engaging and charismatic record closes with Regev's "You Are a Superstar," an eastern-flavored and crystalline piece that is musically intriguing and includes affirmative spoken words.

This uniquely inventive work, released during Women's History Month 2018, is Herzig's best to date. It not only highlights the immense talent and high-quality musicianship of those involved in the project but, perhaps more importantly, flies in the face of gender bias and sexist attitudes in jazz and beyond. For all these reasons and more, Sheroes is an instant classic that will definitely withstand the test of time.

Track Listing: Time Again, D.B.; Bubbles; Ain't No Mountain High Enough; Nancy Wilson Portrait; Song For C.C.; Just Another Day At The Office; The House Of The Rising Sun; Wayning; Cantos; I Am A Superstar.

Personnel: Monika Herzig: piano, composer/arranger; Ingrid Jensen: trumpet; Jennifer Vincent: bass; Ada Rovatti: tenor saxophone; Jamie Baum: flute; Reut Regev: trombone; Leni Stern: guitar; Mayra Casales: percussion; Rosa Avila: drums.

Title: Sheroes | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Whaling City Sound

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