Monday, June 26, 2017

Leigh Pilzer Strunkin’

Leigh Pilzer

One of the mainstays of the very fertile Washington D.C. jazz scene, this is the first album for baritone saxophonist, composer and arranger Leigh Pilzer. A member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and The DIVA Jazz Orchestra as well as one who frequently can be heard with other area ensembles. On this album, recorded live at the 6th Annual Washington Women in Jazz Festival, she leads a terrific ensemble that also includes Jen Krupa, trombone; Sherrie Maricle, drums; Amy Shook, bass; and Jackie Warren, piano. She composed six of the eight compositions with Amy Shook contributing "Brag Time," and Jen Krupa contributing “Duel at Dawn."

The title track is a jaunty number that to me suggests a classic Prestige Records date with Pilzer's vigorous, heavy tone suggesting the likes of Pepper Adams, Nick Brignola, and Cecil Payne, while Krupa's trombone complements Pilzer and displays her own strong playing, with Warren also spotlighted. This is a superb rhythm section. There is a nice romantic tinge to "Blue Moo," with Krupa taking the lead as Pilzer weaves around her on the head on this wonderfully paced number that also showcases Amy Shook's firm, driving bass. A Harry Carney-Duke Ellington flavor is heard on a lovely ballad "Miss Ally In Allyworld," while Shook opens "Brag Time" with a finger popping groove on this hard swinging number that has  marvelous growling trombone in a Tricky Sam Nanton manner, along with Warren's rollicking piano. Pilzer seems to relish focusing on the low end of the baritone's register, yet swings in an effortless sounding manner as on "Thaddish," as well as her bossa nova "It's Anyone But You," with its exchanges between her and Krupa and also provides solo space for all including Marcie. There is a playful opening of bop-laced "Duel at Dawn," with Maricle's drums adding considerable heat with echoes of Tadd Dameron on the close.

What a wonderful recording. These are all musicians playing with passion, intelligence and imagination and with the excellent rhythm section and the marvelous solos, one has a superb recording that has one wanting more.

I received as a download from a publicist. Here is Leigh Pilzer's recent performance at Phillips Collection as part of the 2017 DC Jazz Festival.

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