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Virginia Mayhew: Sandan Shuffle

Virginia Mayhew

In karate, the third degree of black-belt status is called sandan, which saxophonist Virginia Mayhew recently achieved. She wrote the title tune of Sandan Shuffle while preparing for karate class, and her funky blues does indeed feature a shuffle rhythm, albeit one with seven beats to the measure. In fact, out of the album’s 10 tracks, fewer than half are in straight 4/4 meter, the others based on 3, 5 or 7 beats per bar. But the extra beats sound utterly natural, even adding a bit of special interest to standards like “Tenderly” (5/4) and “Let’s Fall in Love” (7/8). That and its calypso/cha cha background make the latter especially fascinating. And it’s refreshing to hear a simple chart like “Monterey Blues” flow so smoothly in 5/4.

Bassist Harvie S contributed “Jazz-Like” and the ballad “Now I Know,” both in straight four. Monk’s “In Walked Bud” also features straight-ahead 4/4 blowing, even if it does sport a novel funk beat by drummer Victor “Yahya” Jones.

Except for two soprano tracks, Mayhew plays tenor throughout with a fine tone and a relaxed, well-developed, postbop conception. The Guitarist Kenny Wessel serves as an excellent accompanist and first-rate soloist in his own right.

Originally Published