The songs of The Great American Songbook are iconic parts of the country's musical legacy, as well known and familiar as any other. Sunday, the quintet Five Play will perform these hits at Westminster High School as the kickoff of Carroll Live on Stage's 31st concert series.
Band leader Sherrie Maricle said the goal is to have audiences tapping their foot and snapping on two and four on their way out of the auditorium. Throughout the show, Five Play will perform pieces by Ella Fitzgerald, the Count Basie Band, Frank Sinatra and more. Maricle said these classic songs will always be her first love.
"The lyrics are incredible; there are no better writers than George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein and all of the rest," Maricle said. "You combine those lyrics with these incredible memorable melodies and you end up with a beautiful harmony."
Five Play creates original arrangements of each of these standards, promising audiences a brand new rendition of some old favorites. In addition to the original arrangements, the group performs each number with a jazzy touch, introducing original improvizations to these well-known and well-loved songs.
"Jazz, by its nature, is built around improvisation, so you're giving each audience something that no one else has heard ever," Maricle said. "I love the flexibility of doing this in these classic songs. You're taking the core of incredible material and making it your own."
Maricle said the improv creates a dialog between audience and artist, as the performers gauge reactions of the crowd and each other to determine when to go next.
"We're entertainers. The only reason we're on the stage is that there are people in the audience," Maricle said. "It is our greatest desire to make them happy and have a good time."
Five Play is an offshoot of the big band Diva, which Maricle also heads. Diva was founded in 1992 by Maricle and former manager of Buddy Rich, Stanley Kay. She said the idea to spin Five Play off into its own group was an idea of Kay's.
Many of the classic big bands had their own offshoots, Maricle said, to perform in smaller venues and try out more experimental pieces. She said Five Play follows the lead of groups like Woody Herman and the Woodchoppers, and Tommy Dorsey and His Clambake Seven.
Carroll County is merely the latest stop on Five Play's world tour. Since the group's creation they have performed across the U.S. and in major festivals in France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Portugal and Spain. Maricle said there have many highlights in their career, from performances at the Kennedy Center, to the Hollywood Bowl, but few compare to the experience of their tour of Vietnam several summers ago.
"We were the only band in the history of our two countries to visit several of those Vietnamese cities," Maricle said. "We were greeted like Justin Bieber is greeted over here. It was thrilling and bizarre because jazz musicians don't get treated that way here at all."
It was hearing the music of the Buddy Rich Band when she was 11 that first convinced Maricle that she wanted pursue music for the rest of her life. She said every time she goes on stage, she reminds herself of how thankful she is that this is the life she leads.
"The key is just to go out and do the truth. You follow your heart and show others whatever your greatest passion is," Maricle said. "If you tell the truth, you just can't do wrong."
If You Go
What: Five Play concert
When: 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11
Where: Westminster High School Auditorium, 1225 Washington Road, Westminster
For more information: Call 410-848-7123 or visit www.carrollliveonstage.org.