Too often, when the mainstream thinks of women in jazz, thoughts immediately go to the singers. Pianist Ellen Rowe reminds us there are many women in jazz who are also composers and musicians. Courage Music (PKO Records, 2014), by the Ellen Rowe Quintet, gives a taste of what the artist can do with longer forms and two horns in the mix.
Accompanying Rowe are Andrew Bishop, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Ingrid Jensen, trumpet and flugelhorn; Kurt Krahnke, bass; and Pete Siers, drums. Trombonist Paul Ferguson sits in on one track. Bishop and Jensen share the lead, at times overlapping, on “Circle of Life.”
It’s one of eight tracks composed by Rowe. It’s a bright, sunny tune, highlighted by Rowe’s joyful play during the middle. Krahnke and Siers keep busy in the background. Bishop then puts the tenor through a rigorous pace, employing a series of high-speed phrases before Jensen rejoins. Things go quiet briefly as Rowe leads, but then the full band comes back in for the blazing finish.