by Bill Milkowski
Five Play, Live from the Firehouse Stage (divajazz.com)
Sherrie Maricle, the irrepressibly swinging leader of the DIVA Jazz Orchestra for the past 25 years, showcases a smaller quintet from within the large ensemble on this spirited live outing. Each of the members — tenor saxophonist Janelle Reichman, trumpeter Jami Dauber, pianist Tomoko Ohno, bassist Noriko Ueda and the leader herself — is an outstanding soloist as well as a consummate accompanist. They each get a solo taste on the exuberant shuffle-swing opener, “T-Bone Special.” Maricle traverses the kit in brisk fashion during her extended, colorful drum solo on Ohno’s smooth grooving “Samba De Sorvete,” then the leader settles into some supple brushwork beneath Reichman’s extroverted clarinet and Dauber’s expressive muted trumpet work on an alluring rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Just Please Me.” Pianist Ohno distinguishes herself on bassist Ueda’s affecting “Uneven Pieces” and her own burner, “The Pilot,” which has Dauber and Reichman engaging in tight unisons and heated call-and-response exchanges. Maricle unleashes some slick brushwork on the kit on this swinger. This delightful quintet outing includes a sublime reading of Jimmy Van Heusen’s ballad “Nancy with the Laughing Face” that has bassist Ueda carrying the poignant melody, a jaunty arrangement of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” inspired by tap dancer Maurice Hines and an intimate clarinet-bass breakdown on Reichman’s buoyant jazz waltz “Cirlces.” It closes on a high note with Maricle’s uptempo barn burner, “The Time Being,” which bristles with energy and showcases a series of outstanding solos from the talented crew.