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Tatiana Mayfield Quintet & the Erskine Hawkins Band: From All Directions

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Fresh out of the University of North Texas music department, Ms Mayfield makes quite a splash with her debut album. Sounding more like a veteran than an ingénue, the 22-year old displays confidence bordering on swagger as she fearlessly tackles jazz standards like “Cottontail” and “There Will Never Be Another You” and breathes new life into “Peel Me A Grape” and “Baubles, Bangles and Beads.” Tatiana possesses a highly flexible voice that is warm and full-bodied in the low register, yet can pierce the stratosphere without need for falsetto. She hears all changes, scats with total confidence, and regardless of speed, her diction and intonation never falter.

Check “West Coast Blues,” an infectious jazz waltz, thanks to guitarist David Abrams’ simple but effective intro; Mayfield’s sassy scat; and above all, Erskine Hawkins’ comping and solo.

The CD is divided roughly into two halves that include crossovers: Tatiana and her quintet; Erskine the Third with his 9-piece band. His is a hard-driving ensemble whose wildest moments come on “Freedom Jazz Dance,” “All Blues,” even on Jobim’s “Waters of March.” When trumpeter Thomas Davis and tenorist DeAnthony McGee ad lib around Mayfield on the repetitious tag of the latter, you just don’t want it to end. There’s a dense, fuzzy chart, “Roscoe Has Issues,” by guest guitarist Rob Leahy, distinguished by Tatiana’s wordless doubling of Leahy’s guitar lead which displays her uncanny ability to duplicate his phrasing with total precision. Listen for more of same on “Cottontail” as she Xeroxes Hawkins’ piano lead and then they take turns quoting bop lines on the changes so effortlessly.

I’m hoping these two stay together; they know each other’s musical quirks and qualities so well. Here’s my request that they eventually record an album of just voice and keyboards. One caveat about this CD: ignore tracks one and eight. Each is titled “What’s On” and each briefly surfs a radio dial finally ending on an unnecessary promo.

Originally Published