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Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Band Jazz Blues


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"Cellars by Starlight"

Author: Ted Drozdowski, Phoenix staff

AS ANY MUSICIAN can tell you, bringing a new player into a project sparks new ideas, new feels, new textures. Especially when that player is as bad-ass as drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie. Local saxophonist Myanna Pontoppidan, who goes by Myanna, tagged Purdie for the sessions for her new One Never Knows, Do One? (Bridge City), which comes out Thursday November 4 and will be celebrated with a show at Scullers in Boston that night.

Myanna was already on track with her new CD when she recruited Purdie, whom she met at a show he played in Chicago. Purdie is an R&B and jazz legend who’s in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most recorded drummer. He plays on five of the album’s nine numbers, adding his graceful but insistent push and sculpting the grooves. Myanna is also joined by a Boston A-team of guitarist Kevin Barry, trumpeter Scott Aruda, and drummer Marty Richards as well as Hammond B-3 organist Ken Clark.

Myanna has had her own voice as a player right from her first group, Lilith, a Northampton-based outfit that she joined in the ’70s. She was also a member of the popular ’80s Boston group Girls’ Night Out, who are contemplating some reunion shows. And when she’s not playing her own tunes on the bandstand, she can be found in the R&B party band the Love Dogs.

In part, the latter outfit accounts for the increase in muscle and blood that brings One Never Knows, Do One? to more vivid life than her two earlier solo albums, Myanna (1991) and After Hours (1997). Original tunes like "Chillin’ at the Lake" swing harder; there’s also just a little more grit and grease in her tone, whether she’s playing alto, baritone, tenor, or soprano sax.

"I wanted to focus more on what’s coming from my heart and the heart of the music that I’ve been writing," she says, outlining the MO for her new disc. "So I think this brings me a little farther away from the smooth-jazz area, where I’ve been categorized. A lot of smooth jazz is based around production. I wanted to get deeper into the songs and the most soulful aspects of my playing. So I made the specific choice to make the album less produced. Almost everything on the CD was recorded live in the studio, and there are no synthesizers, which makes it all sound more organic. Working that way also left all the players room for improvisation."

Then there’s the Love Dogs factor. "I’ve been playing for the last 10 years in the Love Dogs, which is a jump-blues band. Doing that kind of music, my playing is more aggressive. The whole genre is more organic and basic. It would be wrong to try to slip some Michael Brecker licks into a blues tune. So though the whole vibe in my own group is completely different, I think there’s been some crossover between the two."

Myanna’s fans won’t have to wait as long for her next album: she cut 15 numbers during the One Never Knows, Do One? sessions and is writing more. "I hope to go back into the studio and put something else out in a year." As for that title: fans of the classic jazz, blues, and ragtime pianist Fats Waller will recognize the phrase, which he occasionally interjected in his vocal performances and used to comic effect in the great African-American movie musical Stormy Weather. "I just love that little phrase. It’s a wonderful statement on life."

- Boston Phoenix

"Myanna wears this Jacquet with style"

By Bob Young
Friday, October 29, 2004

What did it take to get on the legendary Illinois Jacquet's Christmas card list?For Myanna Pontoppidan, it was love of his music, perseverance and a little help from a friendly club owner.

That owner was Lennie Sogoloff, who ran Lennie's on the Turnpike in Peabody for more than 20 years until it closed in 1972. But before it went quiet, a teenage budding musician from Weston got to hear some of the world's greatest jazz musicians there - among them, her hero Jacquet.

Now a Boston-based jazz stalwart in her own right, who goes by her first name, Myanna has decided it's time to pay tribute to the saxophonist with whom she used to exchange holiday greetings. She has a new CD, ``One Never Knows, Do One?'' (Bridge City), in honor of Jacquet and a performance Thursday at Scullers in Boston to celebrate his music.

Drummer Bernard Purdie, who appeared on the album, will be a special guest, joining organist Ken Clark, percussionist Ricardo Monzon, pianist Dave Limina, bassist David Buda and trombonist Jeff Galindo.

``Even though I was underage, Lennie would take care of me and I could go in there,'' recalled the Jamaica Plain resident. ``I would go all the time, and Illinois was one of the people I heard the most.

``He was so nice. We'd all hang out (with him) during the breaks and I got to know him a little bit.''

Myanna also got to know the late reedman's music, the hard swinging r & b-drenched jazz that she would eventually incorporate into her own alto, tenor and soprano sax sound.

It's his style that courses through many of her originals on the new album. Even though it's a departure from her two smooth jazz-oriented CDs, for decades rhythm and blues has played an influential role in her playing.

After leaving the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, she joined an r & b outfit called Lilith and later got together with Didi Stewart and Cercie Miller for Girls' Night Out, a group that played rock with more than a little greased-up soul fueling it.

These days, in addition to fronting her own jazz band, she's in her 10th year as a member of the blues and r & b-leaning Love Dogs. She believes there's a reason why more and more jazz musicians are bringing groove, funk and r & b styles into their music.

``It's more fun to play,'' she said.``If guys like James Ulmer have gotten away from the avant-garde into blues, you know there's definitely something going on.

``I've never studied enough to be into that `playing from your head' kind of place. I've always been more of a gut player.''

Even though there are echoes of her smooth jazz efforts in a handful of spots on ``One Never Knows, Do One?'' it's mostly straight-ahead Myanna. Jacquet would approve.

``I'd say my playing is more confident and muscular, and that's been a continuum over the years,'' she said. ``It's certainly something that people always express some surprise at when they see a woman playing.''
- Boston Herald

"The lady is a genuine jazz monster"

The lady is a genuine jazz monster. Most impressed with her bari work.

Bob Coffee - WTSL FM - Lebanon, NH; WKXL FM & AM, Concord, NH; WTSA FM Brattleboro, VT

"Jazziz Magazine review"

One Never Knows, Do One?
(Bridge City Records)
Many of Boston’s jazz, blues, and rock bands have benefited from the skills of saxwoman Myanna Pontoppidan. The veteran artist’s varied musical experiences culminate in this satisfying soul-jazz recording, her third solo effort. Wielding alto, tenor, baritone, and soprano saxes, Myanna blows up a storm on an assortment of funk-infused workouts and bluesy organ groovers. Throw in some slow blues, jump blues, and Horace Silver-like Latin-tinged numbers, and this is a superior contemporary-jazz offering.

Best known as a founding member of the ’80s rock band Girls’ Night Out and the current swing/R&B ensemble the Love Dogs, Myanna is a powerful blower in the David Sanborn mold. One Never Knows, Do One? is named after a Fats Waller quote and dedicated to the late Illinois Jacquet. The music treads a confident line between contemporary and mainstream jazz. Myanna’s unobtrusive production emphasizes the power of her sax work, and the presence of veteran drummer Bernard Purdie guarantees that five of these tracks groove hard. The tunes are upbeat and catchy, but with a meatier straight-ahead sensibility than, say, Dave Koz or Gerald Albright’s work. Besides injecting plenty of fiery soul into the funkier fare, Myanna shows considerable versatility spinning delicate soprano-sax lines on the Latin ballad “El Corazón Solo” and passionate alto-sax solos on the percussive original “One World.”

With One Never Knows, Myanna creates accessible pop-jazz minus any slick production tricks or formulaic tunes. In a perfect world, commercial jazz radio would air heavy doses of Myanna.
— Ed Kopp
- Jazziz

"Jazz Improv review"

As a multi-reed player, a composer and a bandleader, Myanna shows her musicality through her unique brand of funky feels and songs on every track of One Never Knows. Nearly all the tunes were written by the leader herself. The band plays her original material as a cohesive unit with heavily funkified leanings. Myanna mixes different timbres, both by alternating on soprano, tenor, alto and baritone saxes and by choosing different instrumental combinations for different tunes. These different sound assemblages, however, make the album sound more cohesive rather than less. The unity in the face of such diversity comes from Myanna’s vision, realized through a number of well written compositions and arrangements.

One Never Knows begins with a Latin groove, set up by drummer Marty Richards. Dave Limina quickly enters with a Hammond B3 Organ solo. Finally the rest of the band enters with Myanna’s melody, entitled “Slippin’ Down”. Myanna takes her first solo of the CD on alto, with a soaring tone and a choppy, but musical feel. The leader’s original, “Intrepidation” follows, beginning with Myanna alone on the baritone. Bass, drums and guitar then enter and set up a funky backbeat groove. The melody is doubled on baritone and muted trumpet. The band has a touch of James Brown thrown in for good measure on this track. The next tune has more than a touch of James Brown. The Godfather of Soul’s “Cold Sweat” features guest drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie and a return to the organ trio backing.

“El Corazón Solo”, another original by Myanna, is a light Latin ballad, but it moves along, with a pretty melody and an un-sluggish tempo. The soprano sax is featured on this track and balanced by trumpeter Scott Aruda’s mellow, middle register solo. Bernard Purdie again mounts the drum throne for another original funk tune, “Chillin’ at the Lake”. The funk here is of a more modern variety than the previous James Brown type feel. Myanna is on alto throughout, and “Pretty” Purdie has obviously gotten some new china-boy cymbals, which he uses to color his deep funk groove. Proving to be a prolific composer, Myanna gives us another original, with “One World”, in a reggae type feel, with Latin and world music influences.

The last three tunes on the CD all feature Bernard Purdie on drums. “For Illinois” starts with Myanna unaccompanied on the alto. She finally leads the band into a slow 12/8 blues feel. The organ trio of Purdie, organist Ken Clark and guitarist Kevin Barry back Myanna beautifully on this track. “Vintage Love” was written by Ed Scheer and features the composer on vocals. The style is an easy funk and bassist David Buda takes a fine solo, full of slaps and pops. A final original by Myanna closes the album—the fast riffy swing tune “Road Rhythm”, a “rhythm changes” tune, handled in a straight ahead jazz feel.

One never knows what they’re going to get from track to track with Myanna’s One Never Knows. Whether it’s not knowing which reed the leader will play or if the feel will be Latin flavored, funky or straight ahead swing, Myanna keeps you guessing throughout this recording. Definitely one to check out.

By Dave Miele, Jan. 2006 - Jazz Improv

"Review from"

CD Title: One Never Knows

Year: 2004

Record Label: Bridge City Records

Style: Contemporary Jazz

Myanna and a very talented group of world-class musicians cover a wide range of emotions and atmospheres on this incredible collection of songs. If I had to pick one song from this CD to give you an example of Myanna's strength on the saxophone, I would ask for two and try to slip in a third one. The best place to start is in the beginning. Myanna gives David Limina the honors of playing the first notes on the album. 47 seconds of sizzling Hammond B3 sets off a chain reaction of Jazz that sadly, has moments of silence between tracks. Such is the anticipation of the next number that I fast-forwarded just as each song ended to allow these folks to keep on playing.

Myanna gives you the funky, the furious, and the flow, as she transitions through this recording. You want to have friends over for drinks? Going on a long drive? You want to spend a romantic evening with you soul-mate? How about your favorite Jazz station? I can see Myanna occupying all these spaces at once, because she's given us something for all occasions. Solos, exchanges, melodies, and most of all, FUN...interlaced within every note the band plays.

Electrifying one moment, and soothing the next. "One Never Knows" what's coming from this classy and saxy lady. Although she's been in the game for a long time, pleasing crowds in the Northeast, this could be the one that finally gets her some well-deserved attention internationally. I certainly hope so. Keep on jammin, Myanna!

Reviewed by: John Marcus


"Review from"

The operative word for Myanna's new CD is "enjoy". From start to finish, this CD has something enjoyable for everyone...audience and performers alike.
The first track starts off with an organ intro, followed by the melody done by the ensemble. Then come the solos. A fun track. The organ and alto combo is sure to make you smile. "Intrepidation" is an original tune by Myanna (a combination of the words "intrepid" and "trepidation"). She starts off with a baritone sax solo and then switches to alto sax. The third track is the James Brown classic "Cold Sweat", done in such a way that you can almost see him dancing around. Myanna does a lovely, sensitive rendition of another of her originals, "El Corazon Solo". This one is a bolero which features Myanna on soprano sax. "Chillin' at the Lake", another original, is a laid back blues with Myanna on alto and a bluesy guitar solo by Kevin Barry. "One World" is written with an African Soukous beat. It has a ballad feel with pretty work on alto. "For Illinois" is written by Myanna and dedicated to the late Illinois Jacquet. She plays this track on tenor, evoking Jacquet's sound. (Myanna credits Illinois Jacquet as a significant influence on her playing.) "Vintage Love" is the only vocal on this CD and is sung by its writer, Ed Scheer. He has a raspy, bluesy sound and the lyrics are old fashioned, double entendre which makes for a good chuckle. The last track is a road tune appropriately called "Road Rhythm". It features tenor sax and organ trading solos and a beat that will not stop.

Bernard "Pretty" Purdie (who is the "world's most recorded drummer")is an exciting drummer and the tracks that he is on just explode with his energy. Everyone else falls into the groove and has a really good time.

And that is the secret of this CD by Myanna. It makes you want to move, dance, smile and have a wonderful time.

Reviewed by: Marcia Hillman


"Rants & Raves"

Boston-based saxophone virtuoso, Myanna, has been wowing audiences with her precision playing and showmanship for nearly 30 years. First as a member of the R&B outfit, Lilith, then as a counterpart to the critically acclaimed Girls Night Out collective, and more recently in the band Love Dogs, Myanna is now the bandleader of her own accomplished quartet. Though her studio output has remained curiously slow, she's accumulated an audience largely built on an appreciation for her spirited live performances, the energy expended from which might prove challenging to capture in a studio recording.

This week marks the release of her third disc, "One Never Knows, Do One?" and the good news is that it's almost completely devoid of "smooth jazz" trappings, so often a homogenizing nuisance on the contemporary jazz circuit. Instead we're treated to a solid collection of nine top-shelf performances, including six original pieces, that celebrate the gray areas in between jazz, blues, and funky soul - the overall feel of the collection is exemplified by one of the cover choices, a sassy reading of James Browne's "Cold Sweat."

Myanna's sidemen definitely sound tight, but "One Never Knows" thankfully still carries some of the spontaneity of a live recording. Driven by the renowned talents of drummer Bernard Purdie, (Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin), the new disc is dedicated to Illinois Jacquet, a tenor saxophone legend who passed away last August. And though all the players on these sessions did a commendable job, the occasional appearance of Dave Limina's piano and flourishes of Hammond B3 organ from Ken Clark are particularly memorable, as is Dave Buda's bass playing, which was also a highlight of Myanna's set during the Beantown Jazz Festival this past summer.

And at the center of all this is Myanna herself, switching between alto, tenor, and baritone sax (she plays all three on "Intrepidation"), with a keen sense of timing and rhythm that seem to only grow sharper with age. "El Corazon Solo," - loosely, "the lonely heart" - thrives on a dramatic, cocktail-tinged groove, while "Slippin' Down" and "Chillin' At The Lake" are both pleasurable reminiscences of good times. Despite "For Illinois" being the conceptual centerpiece of the disc, the world music hybrids that run through "One World," and the big band send-up of "Road Rhythm" are both far more interesting.
- Bay Windows

"Biography by Alex Henderson at"

New England saxophonist Myanna Pontoppidan (who only uses her first name professionally) has acquired a reputation for being one of the edgier, more aggressive and hard-blowing players in the pop-jazz/NAC field. Although Myanna (who plays the tenor, alto, soprano and baritone saxes) is far from a bop purist, her melodic, accessible, groove-oriented blend of jazz, R&B and pop has tended to be gutsier and much more improvisatory than most of recordings that NAC/smooth jazz stations favored in the ‘90s and early 2000s—Myanna is too much of an improviser to be lumped in with Kenny G, Dave Koz and Richard Elliot. Stylistically, Myanna's work often recalls the pop-jazz, soul-jazz and jazz-funk of the ‘70s and early ‘80s; David Sanborn, Tom Scott, David "Fathead" Newman and the late Grover Washington, Jr. are strong influences, as are Wilton Felder (of Crusaders and Jazz Crusaders fame), Maceo Parker (who spent many years in the employ of James Brown, the Godfather of Soul) and Spyro Gyra founder/leader Jay Beckenstein. Another valid comparison is early Ronnie Laws (as in 1977's Friends and Strangers and 1976's Fever), and when she gets into the occasional Latin-ish groove, Myanna can hint at Gato Barbieri's more commercial, pop-minded side (as opposed to his straightahead post-bop and blistering avant-garde free jazz). Myanna's albums may, on occasion, include an R&B vocal (usually of the quiet storm variety), but she is an instrumentalist first and foremost.It isn't surprising that Myanna has so many ‘70s influences; that was when the saxophonist (who grew up in Weston, MA listening to a variety of jazz, blues, soul, rock and pop) began to make her presence felt on the New England music scene. After studying with saxman Joe Viola at the well known Berklee College of Music in Boston and with veteran drummer Max Roach at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Myanna joined a ‘70s soul/funk band called Lilith (who were based in Northampton, MA). Myanna left Lilith in the late ‘70s and hooked up with an outfit called the Bill Bellamy Project; then, in 1984, Myanna formed the group Girls Night Out with fellow saxophonist Cercie Miller and singer Didi Stewart. At first, Girls Night Out was a cover band that paid tribute to the girl groups of the early ‘60s (artists like the Shirelles and the Ronettes), but they went on to write and record original material and enjoyed a small local following. After the breakup of Girls Night Out, Myanna spent some time in the Love Dogs—another local Massachusetts group—but eventually, the New Englander got around to recording some albums as a leader. Myanna released her self-titled debut album on her own label, Bridge City Records, in 1992; that disc was followed by 1997's After Hours (Myanna's sophomore album) and 2004's One Never Knows, Do One?, both of which are also on Bridge City.

- All Music Guide

"Review from"

Myanna, a veteran saxophonist based in the Boston area, is quite impressive throughout this soul-jazz set. Playing mostly originals that are soulful and bluesy, straddling the line between jazz and R&B, Myanna displays strong and often-powerful tones on four different saxophones. Sometimes she overdubs a second horn on melody statements. Her backup band keeps the grooves moving and displays individuality but Myanna is the main star. Whether it be a passionate R&B-ish ballad that is dedicated to the late Illinois Jacquet ("For Illinois") or a romp (Road Rhythm" is a high point), she excels on this very likable date. Myanna deserves to be much better known.
- All Music Guide


One Never Knows, Do One? - 2004 Bridge City Records
After Hours - 1997 Bridge City Records
Myanna - 1991 Bridge City Records
Boston Jazz - 1998 - Vee Records
Girls' Night Out EP - 1987



In the 1970s and 1980s, it was very unusual for a woman to play saxophone. Then Myanna came along and made headlines! Now, almost three decades later Myanna is still making news with the release of her latest CD. Titled, One Never Knows, Do One? this disc is a solid jazz release . . . sure to garner critical attention.

Illinois Jacquet, Sonny Rollins, Jimi Hendrix, and B.B, King were saxophonist Myanna Pontoppidan’s core musical influences, beginning in her late teen years. Myanna grew up in Weston, Massachusetts and after graduation went on to Berklee College of Music in Boston where she studied with saxophonist Joe Viola. Her career soared early on; she sat in with Grover Washington, Jr., performed with Gray Sargent, Martha Reeves, Ronnie Specter, and the Platters, among others.

After a stint at University of Massachusetts in Amherst (where she studied with Max Roach), Myanna sprinted off with the respected R&B Northampton-based band, “Lilith.” The band relocated to Georgia for a while - near Atlanta, then moved to Boston. Myanna left that group in the late ‘70s and joined the Bill Bellamy Project - an original jazz/R&B band. In 1984, she, saxophonist Cercie Miller and singer Didi Stewart put Girls' Night Out together as a lark - playing ‘60s girl group songs. The band ended up staying together due to high demand - and added more and more originals, until it morphed into an original rock band that also played some oldies.

Chris Hamel of the Springfield Morning Union described the band thus: “member for member and in total, one of the best rock acts that New England has ever produced.” “Girls’ Night Out” was chosen as one of five finalists in Musician Magazine’s 1986 national “Best Unsigned Band in America” contest.

Around the time that Girls Night Out split up, Myanna not only joined another highly successful band called The Love Dogs, but she formed her own band.

“There's nothing quite so satisfying as playing one's original music with a bunch of fine musicians,” says Myanna.

From the moment she and her band first stepped onto the musical stage, she and the band garnered widespread attention. She released her first CD, Myanna, and in 1992 she won the prestigious Boston Music Award for “Outstanding Local Jazz Act.” She and the band were nominated again in 1994. Then the Myanna band went on to win the coveted Boston Phoenix/WFNX Best Music Poll as the “Best Local Jazz Act” in both 1994 and 1996.

Along the way, Myanna set out to create an outlet for her growing wealth of original material. The pop-jazz style of her first CD, Myanna, evolved into a funky, danceable sound on her second, highly acclaimed release, After Hours, on the Bridge City label.

Critics raved about both of Myanna’s first two releases. Jon Garelick of the Boston Phoenix wrote, “There’s a rhythmic acuity to her playing and a real sense of drama in her arrangements and songwriting.” The Boston Globe’s Steve Morse said, “She play(s) . . . with passion and clarity” while according to John Laughter, writing in the Saxophone Journal, [Myanna is] a “multi-talented individual” who “is gifted with imagination and the ability to express her ideas.”

One Never Knows, Do One?, Myanna’s newest CD [release date, November 4] might just be the best yet. The title hints at the musical direction of this CD: from the sweeter, smoother jazz/funk to a hotter, organ-based R&B/jazz beat. At the heart of this new CD the bold funk/blues style of jazz is driven by the inimitable groove of world-renown drummer, Bernard Purdie.
Eric Jackson, the respected host of WGBH’s jazz show, Eric in the Evening, already has exclaimed, “This is exciting music that is full of passionate playing and good tunes.” The CD and one of the tracks are dedicated to the late, great Illinois Jacquet, one of Myanna’s most significant influences.