The DIVA Jazz Orchestra is a ‘No Man’s Band’: NPR



“When I was younger,” says Sherrie Maricle, “it was almost a mission to blend in with all the men I played with. Not to be seen as a woman in any way.” But Maricle, a drummer inspired by the precision and power of Buddy Rich, found her calling as a leader of women – in particular, as a leader of The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, which recently marked 25 years as a proving ground, a pipeline and a retort to any lingering prejudice that this music is a male domain.

Jazz evening in America recently met Maricle and the band at Dizzy’s Club in New York City during an album celebration for The DIVA Jazz Orchestra 25th anniversary project. In this radio episode we will hear some of this new original music. And we will hear some musicians from DIVA, including Alexa tarantino, an excellent saxophonist born the same year as the group.

There is a rich, important and often under-recognized legacy of all-female big bands, so we’ll be spending time in this show paying homage as well. Our host, Christian McBride, traveled to California to sit with saxophonist Roz Cron, 93, one of the last surviving members of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, which caused a sensation in the 1940s. You’ll want to hear memories of Cron on the road, which underscore why Earl “Fatha” Hines once referred to the International Sweethearts of Rhythm as “the first freedom riders.”


  • “Jami’s Melody” (Barbara Laronga)
  • “East Coast Andy” (Leigh Pilzer)
  • “Caravan” (Duke Ellington)
  • “Square One” (Alexa Tarantino)
  • “La Americana” (Tomoko Ohno)


Core band with frontman / drummer Sherrie Maricle; pianist Tomoko Ohno; bassist Noriko Ueda; alto saxophonists Alexa Tarantino and Mercedes Beckman; tenor saxophonist / clarinetist Janelle Reichman; tenor saxophonist Cynthia Mullis; baritone saxophonist Leigh Pilzer; trumpeters Liesl Whitaker, Jami Dauber, Rachel Therrien and Barbara Laronga; trombonists Jennifer Krupa, Hailey Brinnel and Leslie Havens. Special guest trumpeter Ingrid Jensen.


Producers: Sarah Geledi with Alex Ariff; Production assistant: Sarah Kerson; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Recording engineer: Rob Macomber

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Henry R. Wright