WBGO Radar

DIVA Jazz Orchestra: A Swingin' Life

DIVA Jazz Orchestra's album A Swingin Life.

In 1990, Stanley Kay, the onetime manager and relief drummer for Buddy Rich, was conducting a band with Sherrie Maricle on the drums.

A lightbulb came on above their heads, and Kay and Maricle set in motion a process to recruit other women of similarly high musical caliber to form the DIVA Jazz Orchestra.

This all-female musical force has had a swingin' life for 22 years, recording and performing for audiences at clubs and festivals around the globe, with an all-star cast of special guests, including Joe Williams, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Rosemary Clooney, Clark Terry, Dr. Billy Taylor and Dave Brubeck.

They recorded a Johnny Mandel tribute recording with Mandel conducting. They appeared on the televised 25th Kennedy Center celebration. Just a few weeks ago, DIVA arranged and recorded the score for this year's Macy's 4th of July Fireworks spectacular, seen by millions... you are about to find out why.

If you've never had the chance to hear these 15 women wailing, you'll be in luck when you turn on "A Swingin' Life," an album which captures the excitement they create live, recorded at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in New York and the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild outside of Pittsburgh.

A Burt Bacharach attack immediately sits you straight up with "What The World Needs Now Is Love," arranged by Ellen Rowe and highlighting the swing of tenor saxophonist Janelle Reichman, who shines again on clarinet alongside Jamie Dauber's trumpet on "Nothin'," a Latin-tinged chart penned by Stanley Kay.

There are surprises supreme, and one appears next as Nancy Wilson sings gloriously on the Jimmy Van Heusen/Sammy Cahn standard "All My Tomorrows." John Clayton's arrangement gives a nice glow.

Ms. Wilson and DIVA next put some steam into "All Of Me," with some nice chops from pianist Chihiro Yamanaka.

22 years brings with it a lot of synergy and comfort you'll enjoy throughout this proud production, from "The Very Thought Of You", with some passionate thoughts from Nadje Noordhuis on flugelhorn; Lisa Parrott's burning baritone sax and bassist Noriko Ueda moving effortlessly around some ensemble playing that kindles"Pennies From Heaven" to a four-alarm firestorm.

And then more surprises! Marlena Shaw takes command of a blues medley that includes " Goin' To Chicago Blues," "Kansas City" & "Everyday I Have The Blues."  She follows with Alec Wilder's gorgeous "Blackberry Winter", sharing the warm feel of pianist Tomoko Ohno, who also gets to show what she's about on Chopin's "Nocturne # 6 Opus 9, Number 2", delivered DIVA style - Swinging!

Terry Gibbs' gyrator, "Blues For Hamp," makes us anxious for DIVA's "A Swingin' Life" to arrive on August 5th, from MCG Jazz.

DIVA performs at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola October 17th through 19th. 

  - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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