DIVA Jazz Orchestra returns with “DIVA + The Boys”

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DIVA Jazz Orchestra is the ensemble put together by Stanley Kay, one-time manager and relief drummer for Buddy Rich. Kay was conducting a band in which now-DIVA member Sherrie Maricle was playing drums. The idea developed that involved putting Maricle in a jazz orchestra with other women. A nationwide search ensured. Almost 30 years later, the group continues to grow and evolve. That development is evident on “DIVA+The Boys.”

The “boys” in this case refers to the dynamic soloists that DIVA has partnered with. They are Ken Peplowski, Jay Ashby, Claudio Roditi, and MCG Jazz Executive Producer Marty Ashby. The songs on the album are live performances that sound polished enough to be studio works. If it were not for the applause after each song, it would be difficult to know that the performances were live.

The sound and style of “DIVA + The Boys”

The word that comes to mind to describe the sound and style of “DIVA + The Boys” is captivating. When this group plays, immediately the glamorous jazz decades of yesteryear are evoked. While listening, audiences can imagine elegant hemlines, graceful tuxedos and swaying to the energetic blare of trumpets, flugelhorns, trombones, saxophones, etc. Undergirding it all is the dynamic drumming that seems to have a life (rhythm pattern) of its own. Not all music has the power to take listeners away from their everyday lives, but this does.

From the first note of Benny Goodman’s “Slipped Disc,” the DIVA Jazz Orchestra plays clear and confident jazz that requires audiences’ attention. They make the elegance and verve of the piece sound easy to create, even though listeners know otherwise. Here, the horns get the attention because they have come to life in a way that carries the song and provides necessary dynamics.

Another song not to be missed is the definitely bluesy, but while retaining its jazz elements, too, is “Piccolo Blues.” An original by Roditi, it surprises with its groove and obvious blues. The song was unexpected, and perhaps that made it all the more enjoyable.

There are eight songs on “DIVA + The Boys.” Each offers audiences an excellent example of what the ensemble can do. Fun to listen to, the recording also manages to be a classy escape from the modern world. DIVA Jazz Orchestra seems to be taking risks that payoff with each recording. This one will leave fans impatient for the next.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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