Virginia Mayhew

Phantoms

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On Phantoms, her third album as leader, saxophonist, and composer, Virginia Mayhew demonstrates that she is not only an exciting writer and skillful arranger, but also that she can take the most tired standards and turn them into brand-new musical adventures. Aided by her longstanding quartet , consisting of the exquisite trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, bassist Harvie S. (a.k.a. Harvie Swartz), and drummer Allison Miller, Mayhew bops, bounces, and floats through a wide-ranging program of originals, standards, and modern compositions by such eminent names as Steve Swallow ("Babble On") and Kenny Barron ("Phantoms"). Piano-less quartets are always treading a thin line between salutary freedom and potential harmonic chaos, but it is Mayhew's particular strength to be able to hold this group together almost telepathically, even when taking unusual liberties with the material -- like laying the changes to Cole Porter's "I Love You" over a homemade 7/8 rhythmic framework, or switching the melodic accents around on Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-a-ning" until it sounds almost like a different tune altogether. Swartz takes a particularly nice solo turn on "Monterey Blues," a Mayhew original, but it's Jensen that continually catches your ear on her solos and on the beautifully constructed duo passages she shares with Mayhew. Highly recommended.

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