When Linda Presgrave toured with members of the International Women in Jazz ensemble a few years ago, the experience inspired her to explore and highlight works by female jazz musicians. The Journey is the result of that inspiration, a multifaceted work that not only honors the contributions that women have made to the idiom, but also showcases her own talents as a pianist, composer and arranger.
The original title cut, an introspective tune whose theme recalls "Naima," leads off. Presgrave sets the pace with a flowing, lyrical statement, Stan Chovnick plays an impassioned soprano sax solo and special guest Oliver Lake burns softly on alto sax, stretching the boundaries of the melody. Presgrave performed this song during her fine show at Dizzy's Club last month, with band regulars Wei-Sheng Lei (bass) and Seiji Ochiai (drums) providing a lush foundation for her and Chovnick to work.
Presgrave swings nimbly through a refreshingly up-tempo version of Ann Ronell's "Willow Weep for Me," and Shirley Scott's "Soul Searchin'" is a lowdown burlesque house blues with a fine plucked bass solo by Harvie S at its heart. Chovnick's flute and soprano sax and drummer Eric Allen's mallets enhance the dramatic tension of the Native American-themed "Kokopelli's Dream." The rhythm section gives Mary Lou Williams' "Koolbonga" a smooth, spirited interpretation.
Presgrave nods to trombonist and composer Melba Liston on the ballad "Billy," with Chovnick's soprano telling the story above Presgrave's delicate piano and Ochiai's brushwork. Liston's "Zagreb This" is an Eastern European bopper with raga-type solos by Chovnick and Lin playing arco. Presgrave gives Marian McPartland's ballad "In the Days of Our Love" a beautiful solo treatment, and the foreboding bass of Harvie S leads the march into Alice Coltrane's "Ptah, the El Daoud" with more fine soloing by Chovnick, Presgrave, Allen and Lake. With her lyrical playing and a stellar ensemble, Presgrave adeptly mines the secular and spiritual side of the music while paying homage to her heroines.
The Journey; Willow Weep For Me; Soul Searchin
Linda Presgrave: piano;
Wei-Sheng Lin: bass;
Seiji Ochiai: drums;
Oliver Lake: alto saxophone, flute;
Stan Chovnick: soprano saxophone, whistle, Indian bells;
Harvie S.: bass;
Eric Allen: drums.
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