No Walls is a musically solid outing by New York saxophonist Virginia Mayhew, heard here on tenor and soprano. Pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Harvie Swartz and drummer Allison Miller supply Mayhew and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen with crisp, modern, mainstream rhythm. Barron plays the supporting role masterfully and has some great solos, but his presence is not the only reason this disc succeeds.
Percussionist Adam Cruz, a fine drummer in his own right, proves his worth by adding spice to Miller's grooves, which unfortunately have some of their flavor leached away by poor recording. Longtime unsung hero Swartz sings on his bass but gets buried in the mix. All is not lost, however: As Ron Carter once said, "That's what those bass and treble knobs on your stereo are for."
The horns-and Mayhew's fine compositions in a full range of bop idioms-are the stars of this session, and they sparkle throughout. Jensen shows true improvisational daring with a tone that is brassy and never domineering. Mayhew is robust on tenor and firm but gracious on a lesser-known Ellington ballad, "Don't You Know I Care (or Don't You Care to Know?)." Her soprano is more lyrical, with an appealingly liquid sound.
Despite its sonic shortcomings, No Walls is a good document of Mayhew and Jensen, two important emerging players.