Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band is back at it again with their second album, A Woman’s Place. It’s been a meteoric rise for these ladies, who’ve been tapped for some pretty serious gigs and festivals this past year, and the experience is evident in this album. They’re tighter, stronger and more confident about their musical identity.
We’re hearing a welcome introduction of vocal harmonies on “Puttin’ It On” and “Shake Sugaree.” Fingers crossed that they’ll keep developing this because their very different vocal styles create an intriguing blend. There’s some great instrumentation going on as well. The combination of Molly, Dizzy and Julie keeping rhythm fuels the energy of the album from its off-and-running opener “Traveling Blues” to its cheeky finale “The Spinach Song.” The Hot Five’s tune “Skid-Dat-De-Dat” gives Marla some time to shine on trumpet with Chloe ornamenting slyly on clarinet. Haruka does some solid tailgating throughout the album, an approach you don’t hear often enough these days. “Last Kind Words Blues” provides some dark shading for the album with a haunting vocal from Marla. “A Woman’s Place (Is in the Groove)” is a swinging tune that is appropriate not just because of the significance of its title, but also as it was originally recorded by Vivien Garry and Her All-Girl Band. It’s a tip of the hat to the women of jazz who came before them, as is the fact that all of the songs on the album were composed, arranged, and/or originally performed by women. Same goes for “Dusty Rag” by ragtime composer May Aufderheide.
A Woman’s Place is an excellent second outing from a band that is clearly going to get better and better.
—Stacey Leigh Bridewell