"The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate," said Oprah Winfrey. A celebration of life is the overall feeling conveyed on Five Plays Arbors Records release, Plus.
The ten songs selected are primarily comprised of original arrangements of traditional standards presented in a contemporary, hard-swinging style. At the drum set, Sherrie Maricle is the group's founder and leader. Although the group is based in New York City, Maricle is the only American. The remaining personnel span the glob with, Karolina Strassmayer from Austria on Alto saxophone and flute, Anat Cohen from Israel on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Tomoko Ohno from Japan on piano and Noriko Ueda from Japan playing bass.
"Theme from Mr. Broadway" begins the celebration in waltz time. A strong colorfully arranged saxophone choir states the melody with some counterpoint sprinkled in for extra listening joy. The soloing by Strassmayer and Cohen, with a swinging underling pulse by Maricle, is energetic and adventurous.
Cohen provides the arrangement and a very enjoyable clarinet performance on "That Old Feeling." A nice mid-tempo swing arrangement of "Funk in a Deep Freeze" follows. Strassmayer’s and Ohno’s solos continue the joyful celebration, with Dauber’s soloing paying tribute the late great Lee Morgan. Another enjoyable saxophone/brass moment can be heard on "Bud Powell," especially the trading of eights at the end.
Maricle’s leadership style allows the strengths of each band member to shine, seeming only to provide a guiding hand when need, but otherwise allowing the music to grow naturally and without forced direction. This gives the entire project a joyful overtone.
Plus is well produced and recorded. The project has a nice flow of styles and instrumentation, resulting in a very enjoyable listening experience.
Sherrie Maricle’s DIVA Big Band extraction Five Play left no doubt that this all-female quintet can swing. The project is a true celebration of life through the language of music, Plus will remind any jazz fan to praise life and smile.