Nelson Brill, Boston Concert Reviews

[…]Fuller also contributes her creative alto sax presence to a stellar big band recording from pianist and composer Ellen Rowe, who gathers an Octet of women musicians to celebrate “Portraits of Women In Motion” on her new recording, Momentum [Smokin’ Sleddog Records].

From the first bursts of Fuller’s shining alto to Melissa Gardiner’s slippery trombone solo (propelling the opening dignified number, “Ain’t I A Woman”), Rowe and her Octet are in soulful sparkling form, anchored through out by Allison Miller’s sharp and steady cymbal, snare and crackling wood rims.

There is a special blend of spirited collectivity and individual soloing captured on Momentum. Highlights include baritone saxophonist Lisa Parrott and tenor saxophonist Virginia Mayhew arching upwards together on the swanking “The Guadians”; trumpeter Ingrid Jensen adding her free-flowing scorch to a gleeful Fuller, Mayhew, Gardiner and Parrott in the off-kilter spunk of “Game, Set and Match” and clarinetist Janelle Reichman softly caressing Rowe’s gracious “Anthem” (with Marion Hayden’s pungent walking bass deep in the mix). Fuller returns with a volcanic twisting alto solo that shimmers and shakes to Rowe’s own blues pounces on the swinging “The Soul Keepers.”

The final piece on Momentum is an intimate piano solo from Rowe, recorded at her home on her Steinway. Her ode to the “Song of the Meadowlark” is a sweet, lilting dream where her Steinway is captured in all its harmonic body and glow. On this solo, as well as on her other open-hearted compositions on Momentum, Rowe’s inventions are richly imbued with gospel, folk and Americana themes that glow and stride forth on the animated playing of her Momentum partners.

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