Pianist/composer Monika Herzig opens her March 2018 album SHEROES with a tribute to her mentor, the late Third Stream composer David Baker. You can hear the Baker influence on “Time Again, D.B.” as Herzig and the SHEROES band move in and out of different meters, blaze through intricate solos, and sync up effortlessly on the tune’s compelling melodic theme. What you can’t hear is that all of the compositions on the release are written, arranged, and/or played by women—the female heroes (or “sheroes”) who collaborated with Herzig on this timely recording.

Each of the nine players on the album is a stand-out musician in her own right. Most of them were born abroad and found success in the U.S. by dint of sheer talent and hard work. If individually they are impressive, collectively they are a force.  

Take their ensemble effort on Leni Stern’s original, “Bubbles.” Guitarist Stern, percussionist Mayra Casales, and drummer Rosa Avila hold the complex rhythmic center for the duration of the piece; during solo sections flutist Jamie Baum and trombonist Reut Regev are thus free to explore the heights of Stern’s harmonic vision. Conversely, on bassist Jennifer Vincent’s “Song for C.C.,” Baum and Regev’s unison line provides the necessary foil for Herzig’s impassioned free improvisation.

Rounding out the group’s virtuosic horn section are trumpeter Ingrid Jensen—who positively soars on Herzig’s bluesy ballad “Nancy Wilson Portrait”—and tenor saxophonist Ada Rovatti, whose rolling solo on “Just Another Day at the Office” adds just the right amount of frenzy to Herzig’s tongue-in-cheek up-tempo.  

On the album’s final track, the eclectic “I Am A Superstar,” composer Regev uses spoken word to affirm what makes these women so exemplary in turn: their goodness, kindness, humor, beauty. But the list is incomplete without also noting their superior musicianship—and shouting brava.—Suzanne Lorge

SHEROES: Time Again, D.B. ; Bubbles; Ain’t No Mountain High Enough; Nancy Wilson Portrait; Song for C.C.; Just Another Day At The Office; The House Of The Rising Sun; Wayning; Cantos; I Am A Superstar. (58:28)

Personnel: Monika Herzig, piano, composer/arranger; Ingrid Jensen, trumpet; Jennifer Vincent, bass; Ada Rovatti, tenor sax; Jamie Baum, flute; Reut Regev, trombone; Leni Stern, guitar; Mayra Casales, percussion; Rosa Avila, drums.

(Reprinted from July 2018 issue of Downbeat.)