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Artemis Brings Together An International, Inter-Generational Band Of Women


This is FRESH AIR. A few years ago, pianist Renee Rosnes organized an all-star band of jazz women called Artemis. In 2017, they did a European tour and played the Newport Jazz Festival. Their first album is now out. Our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says it's strong.


KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: That's from "Big Top" by pianist Renee Rosnes, ringleader of the international, intergenerational women's band Artemis. It's from their CD of the same name. Supergroups combining far-flung music stars don't always work with competing sensibilities in play, but the members of this band are in alignment. Mutual support is built into the way the colorful horns may play scored passages behind solos, and one soloist may dive in while another is still finishing up so the action is nonstop.


WHITEHEAD: Renee Rosnes and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, the band Artemis' two Canadians, on Allison Miller's "Goddess Of The Hunt." The backbone of any lively band is its rhythm section. Rosnes' piano and Miller's drums link in with Noriko Ueda's plump-sounding bass.


WHITEHEAD: Artemis' Israeli Chilean reed section is Anat Cohen on clarinets and Melissa Aldana on tenor saxophone. All six players write or arrange for the band. Aldana's composition "Frida," for artist Frida Kahlo, uses one of the signature sounds of 21st century jazz - piano and bass playing in tricky, precise lockstep. Then Aldana layers on blended horns, which sound typically lush. One episode gives rise to the next in short order. The music keeps moving, and the textures change.


WHITEHEAD: The sextet Artemis sometimes adds the dynamic singer Cecile McLorin Salvant, an imposing presence on her own records. She's a less flamboyant team player on two appearances here - on Stevie Wonder's ballad "If It's Magic" and the obscure Maxine Sullivan vehicle "Cry, Buttercup, Cry."


ARTEMIS: (Singing) So dry your tears and maybe some tomorrow, but true love will happen your way for life is a funny thing. Joy, sorrow - it'll rain. So have no regrets, and just learn to forget how to cry, little buttercup, cry.

WHITEHEAD: The best oldie here is Lee Morgan's boogaloo "The Sidewinder," given a revamp. The 1963 original smacked of manly swagger. Renee Rosnes' arrangement slows and calms it down, queuing up our friendly round robin for the three horns with Anat Cohen on bass clarinet. Ingrid Jensen on harmon-muted trumpet really shines here.


WHITEHEAD: Pianist Renee Rosnes says these seven musicians realize the band Artemis had a future the first time they toured in 2017. They didn't just sound good. They also got along on the road, enjoying each other's company. That is just how Artemis sounds on their debut album. These jazz stars are cooperative, not competitive.


DAVIES: Kevin Whitehead is the author of the new book "Play The Way You Feel: The Essential Guide To Jazz Stories On Film." He reviewed the new album "Artemis" by the all-star band of jazz women also called Artemis.

On tomorrow's show, we get an inside look at the Mueller investigation from Andrew Weissmann, one of the lead prosecutors in the 22-month probe. In a new book, Weissmann says the investigation fell short of its mission by declining to investigate Donald Trump's finances and by not subpoenaing him to testify before a grand jury. Weissmann's book is "Where Law Ends." I hope you can join us.

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our senior producer today is Roberta Shorrock. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Therese Madden, Thea Chaloner and Kayla Lattimore. Our associate producer of digital media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Seth Kelley directed today's show. For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARTEMIS' "NOCTURNO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kevin Whitehead is the jazz critic for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Currently he reviews for The Audio Beat and Point of Departure.