"The most dramatic, indeed thrilling, evidence of the emancipation of women in jazz is the big band Diva," wrote critic Nat Hentoff. "These girls can play — and I mean play," said another critic, Geoff Burdett, while confessing to "being very surprised by the sheer power and spirit of the band, quite apart from the very high level of musical ability on display."
The Diva Jazz Orchestra, formed by drummer Sherrie Maricle, started giving concerts in 1993 which makes this post a kind of their 20th anniversary celebration, as a part of ongoing series Women in Jazz.
According to Diva's leader, Sherrie Maricle, the band is nothing less than an international jazz institution for those women who can play. "The women in Diva are from all over the world," Maricle says, "[and] we are carrying on the tradition initiated by the legendary big bands of the past. We are dedicated to the cause of keeping big band music alive and swinging because we all have a passion for that music."
It's hard to top Mr. Hentoff's passionate defense of the band, appeared for the first time on JazzTimes, when he said "I wish those male musicians and the old-time critics who kept insisting that women don’t have the chops to be jazz musicians were still here to confess how prejudice had closed their ears." However, even today, if one wants to know more about the history of Diva by, for instance, going to Wikipedia or AllMusic Guide, the search would be hugely disappointing. Aside from the band's official website, no reliable source of information exists about Diva and only very few articles have been written about them worthy of their talents and their contribution to jazz. Conclusion? Still a long way to freedom from gender stereotypes and the sexist attitude in, practically, everything!
In order to celebrate Diva's 20 anniversary, Take the "A" Train presents their 1998 Bern Jazz Festival concert almost in its entirety. I say almost because judging from the picture I've used above (taken from Diva's website), Clark Terry has joined the band onstage at some point (maybe encore?), a part that doesn't exist in my video of the concert. Previously two videos of the concert were published online (the first two clips here) which have lower quality comparing to my old VHS tape. Nevertheless, I'm grateful to the uploader, as my tape is missing exactly those two bits!
The repertoire, in order of performance, and after a missing opening, includes:
Medley: How High Is the Moon/Stopmin' at the Savoy/A Tisket A Tasket
Order of solos: Nicki Parrott, Karolina Strassmayer, vocal trio (Jami Dauber, Clare Daly, Lolly Bienenfeld).
You Stepped Out Of A Dream
Order of solos: Cynthia Mullis, Barbara Laronga, Jill McCarron, Sherrie Maricle.
East of the Sun, West of the Moon feat. Teri Thornton
Order of solos: McCarron, Nicki Parrott.
Call Out the Posse feat. Teri Thornton
Clare Daly, Strassmayer.
You And the Night And the Music
Order of solos: Laura Dreyer, Jill McCarron, Tanya Darby, Mullis, Maricle.
The Man I Love
Order of solos: Jami Dauber, Jenny Hill, Dauber, Maricle.
Here we go: