The concept of an all-female big band may still be a novelty to some listeners but it isn't really new at all. The 1930s found Americans dancing to the sounds of Ina Ray Hutton and her Melodears. The 1940s brought us the big band of Rita Rio. Rita was beautiful, sexy and very distracting as she danced all over the stage in front of her orchestra. By the way, her vocalist was Allan Ladd before his success on the silver screen. The late 40s clearly belonged to The Sweethearts of Rhythm led by Anna Mae Winburn. Now, that domain shifts to DIVA, a fifteen-piece outfit led by drummer Sherrie Maricle. This is a highflying band featuring "top rate" soloists and good modern arrangements.
The tunes exhibit a wide range of material by well-known composers including Sondheim, Ellington, Frank Loesser, Gershwin, and Benny Goodman. Some of the songs are performed with a bit of a twist and a sense of humor. As an example, "Happy Days Are Here Again" was penned in 1929 by Milt Ager and Jack Yellen as a foot stompin', "tear the roof off the sucker", dance tune. The beginning of the depression demanded happy songs. Sherrie Maricle and Diva do a complete turnaround and play it as a very slow and moody piece. The composition loses nothing in this refreshing new translation.
Diva's third CD for Arbors is a winner. Soloists abound in the form of: Karoline Strassmayer - alto sax, Barbara Laronga - flugelhorn, Lisa Parrott - baritone sax, Jami Dauber - flugelhorn, Lorraine Demarais - piano, Cynthia Mullis - tenor sax, Deborah Weisz - trombone and Sherrie Maricle - drums.
Sherrie is an amazing drummer and I first saw her perform at the Montreal International Jazz Festival as part of the Oliver Jones Trio. She is a musician in very high demand and performs regularly with the New Jersey Symphony, various Broadway Shows and has also worked with Clark Terry, Dizzy, Hamp and Slam Stewart.
Stay tuned because we have just received news that a quintet has emerged from within the big band and we'll tell you about it shortly.