Bruce Von Stiers
As a young child, Leigh Pilzer had ambitions of becoming a cellist. But as she grew older, Leigh found kindred spirits in jazz greats such as Lester Young and Dexter Gordon. So Leigh switched from the cello to the saxophone. Although Leigh began playing alto sax, her strength in music came when moved over to the baritone sax. As her life progressed, Leigh received a degree in Jazz Composition and Arranging from the Berklee School of Music. She then became a much sought after musician. Not only does Leigh share a quintet with trombonist Jen Krupa, she also is a member of the DIVA Jazz Orchestra.
Just about a year ago, Leigh went from just being part of a group to record as a band leader. This debut recording is an eight song album titled Strunkin'. It was produced by Leigh and Charlie Pilzer and recorded at Allyworld, a performance and recording venue at the Airshow facility in Takoma Park, Maryland. The album was recorded as a segment of the 6 th Annual Washington Women in Jazz Festival. The album has a play time of just over an hour.
On the album Leigh plays her signature instrument, the baritone saxophone. She is joined by Jen Krupa, Sherrie Maricle, Amy Shook and Jackie Warren. Besides being a member of the United States Navy Band Commodores Jazz Ensemble, trombonist Jen plays with a Smithsonian jazz ensemble, plays with the DIVA jazz ensemble and is half of duo with Leigh and the quintet I mentioned earlier. Along with beingOn this album, bassist Amy plays and records as a member of 3Divas, the Shook/ Russo 5tet and the Fred Hughes Trio. Jackie is on piano. She is a soloist, band leader and also is a member of the 3Divas trio. Drummer Sherrie is the leader of the 3Divas and is the force behind the DIVA jazz project.
Strunkin is not only the title track for the album, it is also the first one. The song was named for Dr. Steven Strunk, who was a noted clarinet and piano player, along with being a mentor to many musicians and a professor of music at Washington D.C.'s Catholic University. It is a fairly fast toe-tapper song that strongly enhances leigh's sax playing. But it also includes a pretty decent piano segment.
Somewhat subtle is Blue Moo. It was titled for Leigh's mom, whose family nickname is Moo. It is one of those songs this is light and easy, yet sometimes very busy.
Soft and gentle is Miss Ally in Allyworld. On the song notes for the album, Leigh states that it's for her sister who introduced their family to a special state of mind.
Although most of the songs were written by Leigh, two of them are from others. The song Brag Time was written by Amy Shook. It starts out as a strong bass tune then slides into a moderate groove that features everyone.
Thad Jones is considered to have been one of the greatest jazz trumpet soloists. In the song Thaddish, Leigh pays tribute to this jazz legend. It is a light toe-tapper with a lot of great bass and piano.
Leigh originally wrote It's Anyone But You as a jazz waltz, but here it's more of a samba styled tune. It definitely has a samba dance vibe to it.
Look Before You Lerp has a bit a groove attitude. Even though it has a strange title, or maybe because of it, the song is my favorite on the album.
The final song on the album is Duel At Dawn. It was written by Jen Krupa. It does a nice job of featuring Jen's trombone playing, along with Leigh's sax. In a way it kind of has a rollicking New Orleans vibe.
With the strong line up that she has on this album, along with the great songs, Leigh Pilzer definitely makes her mark. I can see why she is such a sought after musician. As more and more women are rising to the top of the jazz world as performers and recording artists, Leigh Pilzer is sure to become someone whose name is easily recognizable.
Strunkin' is available on iTunes, amazon, CD Baby and Google Play.
If you'd like to find out more about the album or Leigh herself, visit https://leighpilzer.com/
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© 2017 Bruce E Von Stiers