DIVA Jazz Orchestra

DIVA Swings Broadway
(DIVA Jazz)

The swagger and creativity of the DIVA Jazz Orchestra comes through instantly on “Heart,” the opening track of DIVA Swings Broadway, the group’s homage to Broadway musicals. The tune, from Damn Yankees, bristles with broad brass flourishes and boisterous solos from flugelhornist Jamie Dauber, tenor saxophonist Roxy Cross and trombonist Jennifer Krupa. Steven Felfke’s backbeat-heavy arrangement drives the feel-good track, presaging the upbeat way the album ends. All nine tracks burst with joy, even ones with a pensive cast, like “Pure Imagination” and “Love Who You Love.” But the ones with the greatest impact are the high-energy “Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’,” “Seventy-Six Trombones” (with three rowdy trombone solos) and “Get Me To The Church On Time,” the closer. Adding color to the package: Annette Aguilar, percussionist on “Pure Imagination” and “Mornin’.”

The album is as much about soloing as ensemble. It’s also about recasting standards and lesser-known tunes in ways that don’t hew to the originals: Arranger Lee Pfizer’s baritone saxophone on “The Sounds Of Music” replaces the sugar of the tune with a humorous approach, for example. The 15 women who make up this expert and passionate orchestra clearly love these tunes, many from the dog-eared Great American Songbook. Despite the familiarity of much of this material, these re-imaginings remind us why these songs got a grip on the popular imagination in the first place. Bringing novelty, as bassist Noriko Ueda does on Michael Abene’s radical arrangement of Gershwin’s “The Man I Love,” gives such material fresh life.

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July 2024
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