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MONTCLAIR WOMEN'S BIG BAND "Montclair Women's Big Band" Pivotal

Friday, May 16, 2008

MONTCLAIR WOMEN'S BIG BAND"Montclair Women's Big Band"Pivotal

THE TIES THAT bind the Montclair Women's Big Band to other all-female jazz ensembles, large and small, couldn't be more obvious. Yet that might well be the last thing on your mind when listening to this West Coast ensemble's self-titled debut recording, especially when its brass section soulfully swings through Percy Mayfield's "River's Invitation" or when the entire band moves from purr to roar on "Teach Me Tonight." Certainly fans of big-band recordings by Ray Charles and Count Basie will find plenty to enjoy.

Indeed, under the direction of veteran trumpeter Ellen Seeling, the 10-year-old orchestra is at its best when favoring a mix of blues and swing: on Horace Silver's "Filthy McNasty," for example, or when riffing away on "The Brownsville Express," composed by Basie alum Ernie Wilkins and powerfully driven by drummer Allison Miller.

In addition to Miller, guests include vocalist-percussionist Vicki Randle, best known for her ongoing gig on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," and singers Linda Tillery and Pamela Rose. What stands out, however, are the arrangements that take full advantage of the band's expansive sound and such gifted soloists as trumpeter Seeling and alto saxophonists Sonya Jason and Mad Duran.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Saturday at the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center (202-467-4600,http://www.kennedy-center.org). Show starts at 7.

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