Last night's concert at the University of Maryland Tawes Theatre by the Universal Jazz Coalition Big Apple Jazz Women was well attended by the resident academic community but, sadly, not by the Washington area jazz community.
If it has not been sufficiently established these past few years that women can swing every bit as hard--or as gently--as men, this sextet of seasoned and skillful musicians settled the issue once and for all in a varied program of consistently excellent performance.
Leader and tenor saxophonist Willene Barton proved to be a powerful player, an individualist to the core and a gifted expressionist whose licks had a soulful quality. She soloed with great drive and she also provided sensitive obbligatos to the several vocalists.
Pianist Amina Claudine Myers combined block chords, a blues touch and strong rhythmic instincts. "African Blues" movingly featured her wordless vocal over percussionist Nydia Liberty Mata's shakers. Flutist Andrea Brachfeld built her solo on "Waves" from controlled legato to fever hot staccato. Carline Ray's electric bass introduced a jam on the blues in down-to-earth terms and her contralto voice delivered "Come Sunday" with the fervor of belief.
Keisha St. Joan applied a supple voice and lively dynamics to "Stormy Monday" and "When You're Smiling." Tom Briggs contributed several nice ballads. Steady, driving drums were handled by Bernadine Warren.