Review: By Scott Yanow - L.A. Jazz Scene, October 2018
WCS 106 Sheroes
Monika Herzig

It has always been true that females can excel at any musical instrument but they have had to fight many obstacles through the years and even in these days. There are more superior female jazz musicians on the scene today than at any time in the past. Monika Herzig, a very talented modern jazz pianist, leads an all-star all-women septet on Sheroes. The fact that all of the musicians are females (and the diverse material was composed by women) is irrelevant to the musical quality which is very high, but it does result in the artists sharing some camaraderie.

There are many bright moments to be heard throughout the post-bop music. Trumpeter Ingrid Jensen is brilliant on “Time Again, D.B.” (a tribute to educator David Baker) and “Wayning.” She also displays plenty of warmth throughout “Nancy Wilson Portrait,” a Herzig ballad that has a melody based on the numbers in Wilson’s birthdate. Trombonist Reijt Regev displays a boisterous personality and introduces her intriguing “I Am A Superstar.” Tenor-saxophonist Ada Rovatti gets to romp on the hectic “Just Another Day At The Office,” flutist Jamie Baum is an asset throughout, and guitarist Leni Stern is the star of the spirited “Bubbles” which features African rhythms. Bassist Jennifer Vincent, who contributes stimulating bass lines throughout the set, brought in the episodic “Song For C.C” which is highlighted by passionate interplay between trombone and flute. Drummer Rosa Avila and percussionist Mayra Casales keep the momentum flowing and display plenty of versatility and fire.

As for Monika Herzig, her piano playing is consistently inventive and at times quietly witty. She has her own voice on the piano and this impressive album (which also includes transformed versions of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “The House Of The Rising Sun”) is one of her most enjoyable and satisfying. Sheroes is available from Whaling City Sound.

Review: By Hrayr Attarian - All About Jazz , July 2018
WCS 106 Sheroes
Monika Herzig

Pianist and composer Monika Herzig pays tribute to women in jazz, on her captivating Sheroes. The artistically superlative, all-female band explores various cadences, harmonies and moods on this exquisite album, all the while deftly maintaining thematic unity.

Eight of the tracks are originals by ensemble members, and two are Herzig-arranged covers. These are the traditional "House of the Rising Sun" and singer-songwriter Valerie Simpson's (of Ashford/Simpson fame) classic "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

The latter opens with Herzig's resonant, acerbic keys setting the soulful ambience, and features guitarist Leni Stern and her wailing, blistering lines. In addition to Stern's fiery performance, bassist Jennifer Vincent expresses herself with agile eloquence. The excitement and passion come to a head with thunderous exchanges between drummer Rosa Avila and percussionist Mayra Casales.

Vincent's own complex, boppish "Song for CC" highlights another synergistic duo, flautist Jamie Baum and trombonist Reut Regev. Baum and Regev play the intricate melody with lithe sophistication. As they take their turn in the spotlight, their overlapping soliloquies are delightfully divergent yet refreshingly collaborative. Vincent, Avila and Casales create the expectant and darkly-hued rhythmic bridge to Herzig's expressive and angular extemporization.

Herzig's romantic and tender "Nancy Wilson Portrait" opens with trumpeter Ingrid Jensen's warm, bluesy phrases undulating in an intimate atmosphere. Jensen stretches out, embellishing the tune with grace and elegance, while Herzig's dense chords, Avila's soft brushes and Vincent's reverberating strings provide a supportive framework. Herzig follows with a superbly lyrical and subtly virtuosic solo that brims with creative spontaneity.

In contrast, the leader's funky "Just Another Day at the Office," is full of urbane energy and muscular swagger. Tenor saxophonist Ada Rovatti blows with a full-bodied tone, playing an intelligent and stimulating improvisation over the group's percolating vamps.

This engaging and charismatic record closes with Regev's "You Are a Superstar," an eastern-flavored and crystalline piece that is musically intriguing and includes affirmative spoken words.

This uniquely inventive work, released during Women's History Month 2018, is Herzig's best to date. It not only highlights the immense talent and high-quality musicianship of those involved in the project but, perhaps more importantly, flies in the face of gender bias and sexist attitudes in jazz and beyond. For all these reasons and more, Sheroes is an instant classic that will definitely withstand the test of time.

Review: By Suzanne Lorge - Downbeat Magazine , July 2018
WCS 106 Sheroes
Monika Herzig

Pianist, composer and educator Monika Herzig opens SHEROES with a tribute to her mentor, the late Third Stream composer David Baker. Listeners can hear his influence on “Time Again, D.B.” as Herzig and the SHEROES band move in and out of different meters, blaze through intricate solos and sync up effortlessly on the tune’s compelling melodic theme. What might not be audible is that all of the compositions on the release are written, arranged and played by women—the female heroes (or “sheroes”) who collaborated with Herzig on this timely recording.

Each of the nine players on the recording is a stand-out musician in her own right. If individually they are impressive, collectively they are a force. Take their ensemble effort on Leni Stern’s original “Bubbles.” Guitarist Stern, percussionist Myra Casales and drummer Rosa Avila hold the complex rhythmic center for the duration of the piece; during solo sections, flutist Jamie Baum and trombonist Reut Regev are free to explore the heights of Stern’s harmonic vision. Conversely, on bassist Jennifer Vincent’s “Song for C.C.,” Baum and Regev’s unison line provides the necessary foil for Herzig’s impassioned improvisation.

On the album’s final track, the eclectic “I Am A Superstar,” Regev uses spoken word to affirm what makes these women so exemplary in turn: their kindness, humor and beauty. But the list is incomplete without also noting their superior musicianship.

Review: By D. Oscar Groomes O's Place Jazz Newsletter , April 2018
WCS 106 Sheroes
Monika Herzig

Pianist and composer Monika Herzig invites some of her mentors, her heroes in the jazz space to perform on Sheroes. As you may have guessed, this is a performance by all female musicians! While jazz is still a male dominated art form, women have made considerable contributions and this is just a glimpse! Ingrid Jensen (t), Ada Rovatti (sax), Leni Stern (g) and Mayra Casales (perc) are just a few of the talented women contributing to the effort. The original music is engaging, as is the transformation of the R&B classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. Take time to sit down, relax and embellish all elements of a strong set.

Review: By F. Norman Vickers, April 2018
WCS 106 Sheroes
Monika Herzig

This is my second opportunity to review academician, bandleader and pianist Monika Herzig’s group of international women jazz all-stars. So, I’m already among the converted.

So the reader may appreciate the concept and make-up of the group, perhaps introductions are in order. Ms. Herzig has a doctorate in music education and is faculty member at Indiana University. She is author of two books; one is about David Baker and the other is about Chick Corea’s music.

Other members of the SHEROES group include: Reut Regev (Israel) trombone Jennifer Vincent (USA/NYC) bass Ada Rovatti (Italian) tenor sax Jamie Baum (NYC) flute Leni Stern (Germany/NYC) electric guitar Rosa Avila (Mexico/NYC) drums Myra Casales (Cuba) percussion Ingrid Jensen (Canada) trumpet

Of the ten tunes on this CD, four are original compositions of Ms. Herzig. Jamie Baum (flute) and Reut Regev (trombone) and Jennifer Vincent (bass) each contributed one.

In all, over an hour of delightful straight-ahead jazz. Thanks again, Monika Herzig and your SHEROES crew!

Of Pensacola interest: Suzi Reynolds is producer of this wonderful album for Whaling City Sound. She was a Pensacola resident for a few years before moving to NYC. This album will be available for check- out at the Jazz Room of West Florida Public Library.

WCS 106 Sheroes
Monika Herzig

Being a professional musician is no easy task. Musicians often balance family life, concerts and touring, and finding the time to write music and record material. Being a woman in jazz is also a struggle. Jazz can be like other entertainment and business arenas. There can be fewer opportunities for women. Less female mentors. And sexism can be as much a problem as in other work areas. Which brings us to Monika Herzig’s Sheroes, an ensemble which came together for Herzig’s 2014 release, The Whole World in Her Hands. The ongoing Sheroes project is an indication of better consideration for women in jazz. In the CD liner notes, Howard Mandel explains, “That’s exactly what Monika and company does: present a model of empowerment with results that are good for everyone. Wherever you are on the gender continuum, you’ll like it.” One of Herzig’s beliefs is that jazz should be something which speaks to everybody. She says, “It comes out of my advocacy for women in jazz. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and it’s still an upward battle.”

Herzig created quite a lineup for this hour-long effort which features nine players spread across ten tracks. Herzig arranged the music and penned four compositions. She is heard on piano on most tunes and switches to Fender Rhodes on one cut. On horns are trumpeter Ingrid Jensen; tenor saxophonist Ada Rovatti (Randy Brecker’s wife who took the place of the deceased Michael Brecker in Brecker Brothers gigs); and trombonist Reut Regev (who has contributed to albums by Groove Collective, Taylor Ho Bynum and others). The rhythm section consists of drummer Rosa Avila, percussionist Mayra Casales (credits include singer Carmen Lundy, guitarist Dave Stryker and others) and bassist Jennifer Vincent (who wrote one piece). Other members comprise flautist Jamie Baum (who authored one number) and guitarist Leni Stern (who brought one of her compositions to the band).

Herzig’s four tunes show her influences. The 5:22 opener “Time Again, D.B.” is dedicated to Herzig’s mentor, the late jazz educator and NEA Jazz Master David Baker. Herzig also did a book about Baker, Dr. David Baker – A Legacy in Music (2011). Baker’s hallmark was a layering of triple and duple meter. Thus, “Time Again, D.B.” has movement between meters. Highlights of “Time Again, D.B.” include Jensen’s trumpet soloing and Regev’s trombone improvising; memorable harmonies between trumpet, sax and flute; and Herzig’s piano break. The melancholy and narrative-slanted “Nancy Wilson Portrait” is a beautiful, unique ballad. The arrangement uses Wilson’s birthday (February 20, 1937) as a foundation. Herzig built the melody from the scale degrees 02201937. The upbeat, swinging “Just Another Day at the Office” reflects Herzig’s occasionally manic days at Indiana University, where she is a faculty member in Arts Administration and a senior lecturer in Arts Management. “Just Another Day at the Office” has blazing solo spotlights for Stern, Regev and Rovatti. The Latin jazz charmer, “Cantos,” has an effervescent charisma and Caribbean seasoning and displays the group’s panache and camaraderie.

The nonet redoes Stern’s “Bubbles,” lengthening it to almost eight minutes and adding more instrumental interplay than Stern did on her 1993 Like One album. Stern’s original focused on popular fusion as a template. This new interpretation has an African musical sensibility and a masterful call-and-response approach. Vincent’s affirmative “Song for C.C.” is energetic and fast-paced. It commemorates the life and eulogizes the tragic death of one of Vincent’s friends. The frictional, somewhat dissonant tonalities and shifting rhythms provide a tense undercurrent, particularly in the second half. Baum’s nearly seven-minute “Wayning” is a tribute to saxophonist Wayne Shorter. The slow to mid-tempo homage—which Baum has previously performed with other groups—illustrates Baum’s modernistic way with a blues arrangement and her ensemble compositional skills. The final number is Regev’s “I Am a Superstar.” This expressive cut mixes Regev’s inspirations including her Israeli roots, her long standing in the New York City jazz scene and other musical stimuli. “I Am a Superstar” concludes with women reciting a mantra related to equality.

The two covers were chosen to fit the overall concept. First is the Motown hit “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” taped October 2016 for the song’s 50th anniversary. In was a smash for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 1967 and again in 1970 for Diana Ross. Herzig mentions in the CD liner notes that “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” celebrates overcoming obstacles. Herzig maintains a funky flavor with a groove-generating arrangement. She affixes a soulful fringe with the Fender Rhodes. Modern harmonies supply a contemporary frame. Flute and trombone are used to harmonize the melody. Stern slips in notable guitar. The icing on the cake is Vincent’s bass solo. The second cover is “House of the Rising Sun,” which was a rock success for the Animals in the 1960s. However, before it was a rock song it was a folk song done by Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Nina Simone and many more. The lyrics in “House of the Rising Sun” concern a woman’s life gone wrong in New Orleans (typically read as a downfall into prostitution) and the woman imploring her sibling to avoid a similar fate. Herzig’s arrangement embodies the tune’s nuances, from Baum’s gentle flute to Stern’s slightly edgy guitar chords, as well as Herzig’s robust piano and Avila’s forceful drumming.

There are many ways to make changes. One method is by example. A group like Monika Herzig’s Sheroes demonstrates women can be a paradigm for other women in jazz as well as for girls who may have an interest in learning how to play jazz.

WCS 106 Sheroes
Monika Herzig

Monika Herzig's Sheroes is a jazz album featuring all-women, first-class talented performers from around the world. The compositions are largely original with a few covers. Monika Herzig's Sheroes is an amazing listening experience, brimming with passion for the performance, and highly recommended especially for connoisseurs of the genre.

Review: By George Kanzler Hot House Jazz, April 2018
WCS 106 Sheroes
Monika Herzig

Two groups, one a nonet, the other a big band, with specific points of view or agendas, have new albums that comprise this Winning Spins. The nonet is an all-female band, with music composed or arranged by its members; the big band is dedicated to playing rock tunes in a jazz format.

Monika Herzig’s Sheroes (Whaling City Sound) is the second CD from the nonet led by Monika, a pianist, composer and arranger based at Indiana University. She wrote four of the ten tracks and arranged two others. The band includes Ingrid Jensen, trumpet; Reut Regev, trombone; Jamie Baum, flute; Ada Rovatti, tenor sax; Jennifer Vincent, bass; Leni Stern, guitar; Mayra Casales, percussion, and Rosa Avila, drums.

Monika’s take on the two pop songs here demonstrates the versatility of the group. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” the Ashford & Simpson R&B anthem, is pared down for a hornless electric approach, the melody emerging stealthily from Leni’s guitar and Monika’s Fender Rhodes keyboard. “The House of the Rising Sun,” an old English ballade turned rock hit by The Animals in the first British (rock) Invasion, is propelled by Rosa’s brushes, lightening the rhythmic volume as Jamie’s flute and Leni’s guitar play the theme and Monika has a central solo on acoustic piano.

Monika pays tribute to her mentor at Indiana, the late David Baker, with “Time Again, D.B.,” alternating duple and triple time meters, a Baker trait, and featuring Ingrid’s trumpet and Reut’s trombone as well as a piano solo. Reut introduces her own “I Am a Superstar” with trombone harmonics in a cadenza before dueting with Jaime over the rhythm section’s klezmer-inflected stop-times. Jennifer gives us her richly episodic, multi-tempoed and polytonal “Song for C.C.” and the rhythm section’s Afro-Cuban potential is fulfilled on Monika’s “Cantos.”

WCS 106 Sheroes
Monika Herzig

An absolutely amazing jazz set led by Monika on piano, and joined by a whole cast of lady players… Jennifer Vincent (bass, USA), Rosa Avila (drums, Mexico), Mayra Casales (percussion, Cuba/USA) Leni Stern (guitar, Germany/USA), Jamie Baum (flutes, USA), Reut Regev (trombone, Israel/USA), and Ingrid Jensen (trumpet)… & because her players are so international in scope, you also get treated to jazz viewpoints from all over the globe… if you don’t believe me, just check out the most enchanting “Bubbles“… some of the most engaging percussion work I’ve heard (yet) in 2018, and I love Jamie’s flute on this one. The group’s rendition of the classic “House of the Rising Sun” isn’t like any performance of the song you’ve ever heard… unique and totally penetrating… Monika’s piano on this one is high-energy, to be sure. It was an easy pick for my personal favorite… the 6:36 original, “Wayning“, earns a (rare) “permanent spot” on my iPhone playlist… just stunning performance and recording. I give Monika and her musical cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this fine album. Get more information at Monika’s website.