Five_play-what_the_world_span3
December 2008

Five Play
What the World Needs Now
Arbors Records

Two familiar anthems are the bookends here, the album’s 1965 title tune opening the set and Helen Reddy’s huge 1972 hit, “I Am Woman,” serving as the chaser. The best of what the all-female quintet delivers, whether you’re listening for tight arrangements or inspired soloing, lies in between.

Burt Bacharach’s melody sounds freshened when unburdened of lyrics that blithely presume an everlasting ocean and a superabundance of corn and wheat. But the line, arranged by leader Sherrie Maricle and bassist Noriko Ueda in 4/4 instead of the original 3/4, sounds dumbed down instead of jazzed up. Compared with the peppy pace and the nifty horn writing that follows in “I Want to Be Happy,” arranged by Maricle (she actually plays part of the melody on her drum set!) and reedperson Janelle Reichman, the opener sounds downright lackadaisical.

The other missed opportunity is on the Reddy-Ray Burton line, another Maricle/Ueda chart. Sparked by some jubilant brass, “Woman” could sound invincible, which the original single never did. But the quintet plays even more perfunctorily here, as if they’re eager to finish a set and flee.

Alongside Maricle and Ueda, Tomoko Ohno rounds out the rhythm section on piano, consistently satisfying whether soloing or setting the tone. Listen to her exquisite solo on “Old Folks,” not overplaying as she enters in the wake of Ueda’s fine stretch on her own arrangement.

Jerome Richardson’s “Groove Merchant,” arranged by Maricle with jubilant yard-long glisses, is also where trumpeter Jami Dauber shines brightest, with broad hints of Diz and Clark Terry in her solo peroration. Elsewhere the transition from brass doyenne in Maricle’s Diva Jazz Orchestra to the solo spotlight sounds less than comfortable despite Dauber’s technical prowess on flugel, cornet, and trumpet.

Uncharacteristically tame on “I Am Woman,” Reichman roars most invincibly on tenor in “I Want to Be Happy” and “Groove Merchant,” with unmistakable splashes of vintage Sonny Rollins. On Benny Goodman’s “Slipped Disc,” the licorice flavor ranges from BG to Pee Wee Russell with a little liquefied Rollins sprinkled in, and Reichman gorgeously caresses the melodic flow of “Cry Me a River” in her ballad mode.

Originally published in December 2008
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