Diva Jazz Orchestra: “30” – Live At Dizzy’s Club

The all-female NY-based big band marks its 30th birthday with a set referencing Michael Abene, Francy Boland, Woody Herman and others


The days of touring big bands are sadly a thing of the past but the public’s love affair with the genre remains a constant. Alex Stewart’s informative Making The Scene (2007) lists 85 jazz-oriented big bands that were active at the time in New York City alone. I doubt if this situation has changed dramatically.

One of those highlighted is the all-female big band Diva, formed in 1992 by Sherrie Maricle and Stanley Kay (formerly Buddy Rich’s relief drummer). This release, recorded at Dizzy’s Club in NYC where they have regularly performed since the club’s opening in 2004, celebrates Diva’s 30th anniversary with a fresh look at some of the hard-swinging material it has recorded over the years.

Diva open with Michael Abene’s exciting chart on Something’s Coming. There are notable solos from Erica von Kleist and Kellin Hanas, and the band, responding to Maricle’s explosive drum punctuations, handle the tempo changes with aplomb. A highlight of Mellow Tone is the expertly performed sax soli reminiscent of the sort of thing Francy Boland used to write for his band with Kenny Clarke.

The saxes are spotlighted again on Three Sisters And A Cousin, clearly a tongue-in-cheek reference to Woody Herman’s Four Brothers. Leigh Pilzer deserves special mention for her contribution to I Feel Pretty where she gets close to the late Bob Efford’s huge sound on baritone.

The soulful Sue Giles is centre stage on Every Day I Have The Blues along with some pretty raunchy alto from Scheila Gonzalez. That said, the band is packed with top-drawer soloists. Ms Giles, who reminds me a little of Dianne Reeves, has A Tribute To Ella Fitzgerald all to herself and makes deeply felt references to How High The Moon, Stompin’ At The Savoy and Lady Be Good along the way.

(1) Something’s Coming; In A Mellow Tone; (2) Here’s To Life; (1) I’m Gonna Go Fishin’; (2) Every Day I Have The Blues; (1) I Feel Pretty; Three Sisters And A Cousin; (3) A Tribute To Ella Fitzgerald; (1) Inka Dinka Doo; Airmail Special (73.32)
(1) Liesl Whitacker, Jami Dauber, Kellin Hanas, Barbara Laronga, Rachel Therrien (t, flh); Erica von Kleist (as, ss, f); Scheila Gonzalez (as, f); Laura Dreyer, Jade Elliott (ts, cl); Leigh Pilzer (bar); Jennifer Krupa, Sara Jacovino, Hailey Brinnel (tb); Leslie Havens (btb); Tomoko Ohno (p); Norico Ueda (b); Sherrie Maricle (d). Dizzy’s Club, NYC, 1-2 April 2023. (2) as (1) add Sue Giles (v). (3) as (2) add Scheila Gonzalez, Jami Dauber (v).
Diva Jazz DCD 2023