Ellen Rowe Quintet
If "Courage Music" seems an odd title for the excellent new album by the Ellen Rowe Quintet, just consider what jazz musicians do. As Rowe's sister pointed out to her in a poem, the daring act of improvising in the moment should never be taken for granted. Rowe, in turn, honors her sister and her mother who, she writes, have had the courage to fight cancer.
All of the above is given substance by Rowe's compositions and arrangements and the performances of her band. The CD is greatly enhanced by the presence of the superb trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, who also contributes a wonderful tune, "Leaves." Rowe, who is Chair of the Department of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation at the University of Chicago, has collaborated periodically with Jensen since they first met in 1990 at the Banff Centre jazz workshop.
The album's most evocative tune is Rowe's gorgeous "Golindrinas de los Horcones," a two-part tone-poem like piece about climbing Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Argentinian Andes (and the Americas). Aside from Jensen, Rowe gets great support from saxophonist/clarinetist Andrew Bishop, bassist Kurt Krahnke, drummer Pete Siers, trombonist Paul Ferguson and UM's Chamber Jazz Ensemble.