Speaking truth is germane to both of these new recordings, “Five Play Live from the Firehouse Stage” by drummer Sherrie Maricle and Five Play and “Momentum” by pianist Ellen Rowe and her octet. In this month of March – Women’s History Month – it is more than germane for us to celebrate women jazz instrumentalists reverent of their foremothers who also move the music forward with original compositions and brilliant arrangements.
Along with “Momentum”, you would be wise to add “Five Play Live from the Firehouse Stage” by Sherrie Maricle and Five Play to your CD stack. Five Play is the small group developed from Sherrie Maricle’s swinging all-woman big band, The Diva Jazz Orchestra. Ellen Rowe was not a Five Play member, but she was in integral constituent of Diva before moving to Ann Arbor. A current Ann Arborite, Janelle Reichman is presently in both Maricle-led ensembles. What a wonderful musical world we live in with these relationships!
Sherrie Maricle is a truly courageous leader and musician. To record live – implies complete trust and faith in your bandmates. Trumpeter Jami Dauber, saxophonist/clarinetist Janelle Reichman, pianist Tomoko Ohno and bassist Noriko Ueda never let their fearless leader down. Maricle’s unerring timekeeping kicks off the romp, “T-Bone Special” with playful exchanges and joyous shout choruses. “The Time Being” and “The Pilot” are two more up-tempo showcases for Sherrie Maricle’s percussive technique and sense of swing. Notably with “The Pilot”, you can feel the active listening and concentration of this consummate quintet. You might think that the repertoire of a drummer-led ensemble would all be hard-driving and swinging. Not so with Five Play. Maricle knows to vary the tempos and attitudes of her tunes – especially in live performance.
I was gently startled by Five Play’s arrangement of the classic “Nancy with the Laughing Face”. This delicate and delightfully fresh re-working of the ballad makes its own original statement to rival John Coltrane’s rendition of the lovely air. Two thoughtful originals offer Janelle Reichman a wide berth for clarinet improvisation. “Unexpected” is a plaintive plea for peace. Janelle and trumpeter Jami Dauber are intuitive harmonic foils who anticipate each other’s thoughts throughout. My favorite moment of “Five Play Live from the Firehouse” is the pictorial piece “Circles” authored by Janelle Reichman. I dare you to sit still as you take in this loping and lovely tone poem to geometry, bird flight, ripples on a placid lake and the love that surrounds us all.
Ellen Rowe and Sherrie Maricle are living women’s jazz history. Be a part of the movement and support their worthy efforts.