Recording information: Nola Studios, New York, NY (12/08/1998/12/09/1998).
Photographer: Lou Rocco.
Arranger: John McNeil .
Drummer Sherrie Maricle from the Diva Big Band takes four of her bandmates to form this all female quintet of mainstream jazz players. Karolina Strassmayer and Laura Dreyer both play alto sax and flute, Canadian pianist Lorraine Desmarais and Australian acoustic bassist Nicki Parrott help Maricle in the rhythm section. Though the woodwind players are quite lyrical, playing in unison most of the time, it's the sparkling bottom end tones and witty asides of Parrott and the exquisite pianistics of Desmarias that keep the music flowing. The bandmembers wrote none of the 13 selections, but there are homages to the Al Cohn-Zoot Sims tenor tandem, Frank Sinatra, many American popular songwriters, and contemporary jazzmen Jerry Bergonzi and John Scofield, with arrangements by John McNeil. At their best in uptempo hard swinging modes, Strassmayer and Dreyer frequently sound like twin Phil Woods bop towers, for instance the furious "I'll Get By," the outstanding Bergonzi written-up-and-gone title track, the Latin-ish "Scatterbrain," a luscious take on Kenny Dorham's easy swinging "Shifting Down," and the waltzy 6/8 version of the standard "Like Someone in Love." Two flutes appear on the sleepwalk slow "Someone Nice Like You." Alto and flute contrast on the bossa "How Insensitive" and a Sinatra medley of "I'm a Fool to Want You/Wee Small Hours/This Love of Mine." Desmarais' glistening light shines on her delicate features for a bluesy "I've Got the World on a String," where Parrott tears up a solo and states the melody line with the others laying out. The pianist is also particularly strong at improvising on the changes of "On the Brink," her solo is positively captivating, setting up Maricle's drum breaks quite well. Though a steady timekeeper, the drummer does get to punch in with traded fours, solo bars and phrases, but gives the spotlight to her bandmates for the majority of this recording. On Scofield's "Some Nerve" given a too brief 2:28, Maricle plays the N.O. shuffle cum calypso rhythm to perfection and delight. "Momma Flossie" is the Cohn-Sims flagwaver, and a perfect example of what happens throughout, that Strassmayer and Dreyer are reluctant to step on each other's toes and really wail. It's also unfortunate that the producers have not seen fit to identify which solos are Strassmayer's or Dreyer's. This lack of variation and sameness in that regard renders their playing relatively uninteresting; they're very fine musicians, but not distinct. Hopefully they'll get another shot to mix it up a bit. ~ Michael G. Nastos
JazzTimes (5/00, pp.167-8) - "...[They] have a solid, comfortable ensemble sound and kick....Five Play equals 'great play' throughout this album."