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Sherrie Maricle & Diva

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DIVA is a spirited big band steeped in the history of jazz but infused with the progressive harmonies of today. DIVA, based in New York City is carrying the legacy of big bands like a torch into the next century and lighting the way for fresh new faces in the world of jazz. Shattering the paradigms of big bands from yesteryears, all 14 sidemen, led by drummer Sherrie Maricle -- are women.

DIVA plays contemporary mainstream big band jazz arranged by band members and renowned musicians including Tommy Newsom, Michael Abene, John LaBarbera and Jerry Dodgion. DIVA members are alumnae from other big bands such as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Doc Severinson. But for many of the musicians this is the first time they have played together in a band where the music is written expressly for the individual personalities of the musicians themselves.

"We are pursuing jazz for the same reasons that all jazz players do -- we are drawn to it because of a passion for the music," says Maricle. "The issue of maleness or femaleness isn't a consideration that should influence the pursuit of someone's dream. DIVA breaks down the stereotypes of women jazz musicians which typically has been weak and timid or the 'you play like a girl' it will mean with passion, strength and serious musicianship."

For some audiences, it will still unusual to see 15 women playing jazz. But what audiences hear is an ensemble and soloists playing with all the spontaneity and finesse of the jazz masters who preceded them. And sometime such jazz masters as Joe Williams, Rosemary Clooney, Clark Terry, Terry Gibbs and Randy Brecker perform with the band.

The band is the idea of Stanley Kay, a former manager and relief drummer for the Buddy Rich Big Band. In 1990. Kay was conducting a band where Maricle was playing drums. Impressed by her skill, Kay wondered if there were other women musicians with a similar caliber of musicianship. A nationwide audition of players produced a core group of DIVA musicians who performed their first concert in 1993.

"We truly love to play," says Maricle. "And we hope that our love of the music is passed along to the audience. Pleasing the audience, pleases us."

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