Monday, March 16, 2015


Pianist Ellen Rowe
It is a crying shame the female jazz ensemble that performed Sunday afternoon at Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor, MI is only available to the public once per year during Women in Jazz History Month. An ensemble this engaging and terrific should be accessible weekly at some club or concert hall regionally. 

The ensemble was comprised of drummer Nicole Patrick, trumpeter Ingrid Racine, saxophonist Rachel Mazer, trombonist Melissa Gardiner, vocalist Lauren Scales, bassist Marion Hayden, and pianist Ellen Rowe.

They were at the concert house paying tribute to some of the great women jazz musicians of all times. The ensemble put on a meticulous show. The members had a chance to strut not only their considerable chops but also their arranging abilities and compositional skills. The ensemble's set list was a mix of classics and originals.

The women touched on every nook and crevice of jazz the blues, bop, swing, and ballads. In the hour plus set, there’re too many highlights to list, but the one that stuck to my ribs was trombonist Melissa Gardiner wailing on a Melba Liston number. Obviously, from the passion Gardiner displayed during the solo Liston was one of her primary musical influences.

The ensemble performed two of Liston’s tunes, along with material from Alice Coltrane arranged by Marion Hayden and “Lady Sings the Blues” lyrics by Billie Holiday sang perfectly by Lauren Scales. Keep an eye on Scales. She's going to be a force in the music in the coming years. Mark my word.

Tenor saxophonist Rachel Mazer was another standout. She has a big polished tone on the tenor and she wolfed down the changes like Valentine chocolates when she soloed.

The ensemble's sound and overall appeal is powered by Ellen Rowe who have some of the sweetest fingers ever to caress piano keys. Besides, Rowe is everything you want in a bandleader, non-intrusive, supportive, and firm-handed when necessary.

The ensemble played a blues, and Rowe’s solo was so good and convincing it could’ve made the Jesus cuss. This is a world-class ensemble of female jazz swingers – but who really cares about the ensemble’s gender – who I’d pay good money to experience any day of the week.

Unfortunately, there’re no club owners forward thinking enough to give this ensemble a shot. Except, of course, the progressive folks at Kerrytown Concert House.
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