ARTEMIS, Artemis (Blue Note, 2020)
- Renee Rosnes, piano
- Melissa Aldabra, Tenor Sax
- Anat Cohen, Clarinets
- Ingrid Jensen, Trumpet
- Notion Ueda, Bass
- Allison Miller, Drums
- Cecile McLorin Salvant, vocals
- Goddess of the Hunt
- The Fool on the Hill
- Big Top
- If it’s Magic
- Step Forward
- Cry, Buttercup, Cry
- The Sidewinder
We could waste time discussing the obvious: the so-called “novelty” of an all female jazz band; its implications vis a vis the #metoo movement; or how the band and the album are named after the Greek Goddess of the hunt. Instead, let’s focus on what really needs to be said:
Artemis is a fantastic band playing terrific music.
With a collection of songs written or arranged by one of the band members, Artemis (out now on Blue Note Records) continues to breathe new life into a resurgent jazz scene eager for new and interesting voices. The music is a sold throwback to the hard-bop sound the band’s label built itself on in the 50’s and 60’s. But they are not copycats, and this is not your run of the mill “zombie jazz.”
The band’s groove is firmly established by its rhythm section of Allison Miller (drums), Noriko Ueda (bass), and Renee Rosnes (piano). They set up their lead players Melissa Aldana (sax), Anat Cohen (clarinets), and Ingrid Jenson (trumpet) quite nicely, giving them plenty of room to roam around each tune’s theme. The title track sets the tone nicely, with Miller’s drums skittering inside and outside the groove while the soloists make the most of each opportunity.
“Frida” puts the band’s dynamic touch on display, setting a mellow mood for Aldana, who takes advantage of the provided space. The band also does a fine interpretation of the Beatles classic, “Fool on the Hill.” They serve the song best by not attempting to copy each of Lennon and McCartney’s phrases. Instead, they choose to state the familiar theme, then head off into more uncharted territory. Jenson’s trumpet stands out well during these moments.
Cecile McLorin Salvant brings her vocal talent to “If It’s Magic,” a warm, comfortable ditty, and “Cry, Buttercup, Cry,” which would fit in nicely on Broadway as the ingenue’s spotlight moment. Meanwhile, the rest of the band continues to turn and burn wherever each composition deems it appropriate.
It would also be a waste of time to compare Artemis’s efforts to male counterparts. Best to let the band’s abilities stand on their own, which they most certainly do. Their chops are never subject to question. Given the all-star element of this band (many of them lead their own groups), one can only hope Artemis will continue to gather from time to time to hunt and capture such high-quality jazz in the years to come.
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