DIVA Jazz Orchestra creates music as unique as its members

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Few projects in jazz or other genres are as uniquely conceived and longlasting as DIVA Jazz Orchestra. Despite the group’s long history and well-executed songs, not everyone has heard of them. DIVA’s latest recording, “25th Anniversary Project,” is due out March 30, 2018. The project is the result of band members’ contribution of new songs and has been funded by fan contributions on Artist Share.

About DIVA Jazz Orchestra

DIVA Jazz Orchestra came about as the result of a compliment.The group’s music director and drummer, Sherrie Maricle was playing in a band directed by Stanley Kay. Kay is the one-time manager and drummer for Buddy Rich. Impressed by Maricle’s skill, Kay wondered if there were other women who could play at the same level. A nationwide search and auditions ensued. The first DIVA Jazz Orchestra performance occurred on March 30, 1993, at New York University.

The group continues to grow and thrive. A number of the current members have been in the jazz orchestra for more than a decade. Some of the members started out as fans. The grassroots feel of DIVA Jazz Orchestra’s origins, and the way they have maintained their standards and fan base is impressive and exciting.

Teddy

DIVA Jazz Orchestra is comprised of 15 players. The group’s full sound is achieved by three trombones, including one bass trombone, four trumpets, five saxophones, a piano and one drummer. In addition, some of the brass players also play other instruments such as soprano saxophone, flugelhorn, bass clarinet, and flute.

The sound of DIVA Jazz Orchestra

With “25th Anniversary Project” comprised of songs written by current ensemble members, who have also arranged the tracks, the overall feel of the album is cool and confident. To use a colloquialism, it is as though the musicians are literally “owning” the music – – because they do.

“East Coast Andy”

A fusion of horns takes over the soundscape. Just beneath the blare of horns is the stylized drums. The song is fast-paced and classic-sounding. There is something about classic jazz that calls to mind the East Coast, and this song is no different. The song evokes a feeling of movement, of spins and turns and swaying.

The spirited horns have exchanges in bursts with the drums that ground the track in between longer phrasing where horns with deeper registers play against the bass and trumpet and baritone saxophone showcases appear.

“A Quarter Past the Last Minute”

The temptation here is to not make too much of the title – – no asking, “last minute of what?” Because it doesn’t matter. What matters is that even if this album and even this song is the listener’s first introduction to DIVA Jazz Orchestra, the introduction will be a splendid one.

The song begins with a sultry exchange between the upright bass and drums. Horns begin to chime in, and the bright sound that comes from a bouquet of brass instruments shouting together becomes a feature of  “A Quarter Past the Last Minute.”

While the song starts out with a 1940s or 1950s sound, the 1920s are referenced with the strangled trombone sound. Toward the middle-end of the song, saxophone, trumpet, and trombone are given solos. The larger brass instruments sound strangled, and that adds to the 1920s style.  The saxophone solo is particularly nuanced and enthralling. The song brims with energy and a fullness of sound. There ceases to be separate instrument groups and the entire orchestra instead becomes a triumphant soundscape. The song ends with a clean cut-off, no fadeouts here. That last dynamic – – the new quiet against the just faded, energetic sound, gives listeners something to think about.

That the members of DIVA Jazz Orchestra are all women is beside the point in regard to the quality of “25th Anniversary Project.” Masterful approaches to jazz can be found throughout the album.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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