At the ripe old age of thirty (closer to a hundred in big-band years), the superlative New York-based, all-female DIVA Jazz Orchestra remains as frisky as a newborn colt, swinging up, down and around Broadway with abandon on its thirteenth album, a brisk and colorful tribute to the Great White Way that shines brightly from start to finish.
The album opens and closes in a mid-1950s vein, raising the curtain with Steven Feifke's breezy, well-grooved arrangement of "Heart" from Damn Yankees (1955) and ringing it down with a spirited battle of alto saxophones (Mercedes Beckman, Alexa Tarantino) on Scott Whitfield's full-throttle treatment of Get Me to the Church on Time from Lerner and Loewe's classic My Fair Lady (1956). Drummer and music director Sherrie Maricle has the last word on that flag-waver, taking her only extended solo before brass and reeds append a boisterous exclamation point.
Whitfield, a trombonist himself, deftly arranged "Seventy-Six Trombones" from Meredith Willson's The Music Man as a showcase for DIVA's admirable 'bone section (Jennifer Krupa, Sara Jacovino, bass Leslie Havens), squeezing in a quick "trad" section that summons forth clarinetist Roxy Coss and trumpeter Barbara Laronga before adding a brief line from the venerable "Lassus Trombone" as a coda. Coss delivers a forceful tenor solo on "Heart," as do Krupa and trumpeter Jami Dauber. Bassist Noriko Ueda takes a solo bow on the Gershwin brothers' "The Man I Love," as does Jacovino (who also arranged) on Cy Coleman's seductive ballad, "With Every Breath I Take," from City of Angels.
Coss, Dauber and Maricle share blowing space on baritone saxophonist Leigh Pilzer's buoyant samba version of "Pure Imagination" from Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley's delightful score for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the first of two splendid charts by Pilzer who spreads a Basie-style canopy over Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music," on which she solos with Ueda and pianist Tomoko Ohno. Ueda arranged a second R&H masterpiece, "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin,'" from Oklahoma! (sturdy solos courtesy of Ohno, flugel Rachel Therrien and tenor Laura Dreyer), while Scott Silbert uses his impressive orchestral talents to score the enchanting "Love Who You Love" from A Man of No Importance (spotlighting Ohno, Laronga on flugelhorn and Tarantino on soprano sax).
DIVA has a proud history of swinging, on Broadway and everywhere else, and this latest example of its mastery warrants a gold star, blue ribbon, laurel wreath, feather in the cap, or any other commendation a superlative ensemble deserves. To put it another way, Swings Broadway is emphatically recommended.
Heart; Pure Imagination; The Man I Love; With Every Breath I Take; The Sound of Music;
Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’; Seventy-Six Trombones; Love Who You Love; Get Me to the
Church on Time.
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