Jazz CD Reviews

Mark Sherman – The L.A. Sessions – Miles High Records

Vibraphone master offers an endearing tribute to jazz legends.

Published on March 13, 2012

Mark Sherman – The L.A. Sessions – Miles High Records

Mark Sherman – The L.A. Sessions – Miles High Records MHR-8617, 71:29 [2/12/2012] *****:

(Mark Sherman – vibes; Bill Cunliffe – Hammond B-3; John Chiodini – guitar; Charles Ruggiero – drums)

Starting with Lionel Hampton, vibraphonists have impacted jazz. Mark Sherman is among this elite group of musicians. With an energetic post-bop flair, he has recorded for three decades. Collaborations with Peggy Lee, Joe Lovano, Mel Torme, Ruth Brown and Larry Coryell (among many others), along with ten projects as band leader established a versatile resume. From 2007-2010, he was the winner of the Downbeat Magazine’s Critics Polls. Additionally he has taught a variety of master classes and is on the faculty of Juilliard. A deep-rooted passion for music and technical mastery define this unique performer.

Mark Sherman The L.A. Sessions is everything that can be expected from a world class jazz artist. Backed by an excellent Hammond B-3 organ trio, Sherman is able to interact and explore various lines on vibraphone. Opening the 70+ minute recording session is a percolating cover of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Woody N’ You”.  Sherman jumps right into a masterful lead behind the propulsive drums of Charles Ruggiero who anchors the quartet. With a sonically creative run on Hammond by Bill Cunliffe, and a nimble guitar solo by John Chiodini, Gillespie receives a fitting tribute.  Continuing the post-bop influence, the group takes on Charlie Parker’s “Quasimodo” in cool groove strides. With the three-piece rhythm section in lockstep, Sherman delicately weaves around the melody lines with graceful percussive virtuosity. The quartet pays homage to another legend in their rendition of Bud Powell’s “Celia”.  Sherman, Chiodini, and Cunliffe trade solos effortlessly in this swinging jam.

As a change of pace, the group reinvents the Burke/Van Heusen popular standard, “It Could Happen To You” with a jaunty pace. Drummer Ruggiero shines on a drum brake, and up tempo improvisation reshapes the composition. Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice” is fluid and tender. Without the benefit of a reed instrument, the emotional timbre of the song remains intact. Sherman’s play is consistently self-assured, as evidenced by the inclusion of Milt Jackson’s “Bag’s Groove”. The slower cadence and vibe hooks are effervescent. Bluesy riffs (with a lengthy sustain) on organ, drum stops and extended guitar runs combine with graceful precision. Sherman has an intuitive feel for the other band members, especially on the harmonic dual lead with Cunliffe. Another gem is the scintillating jam on Miles Davis’ 1953 opus, “Serpent’s Tooth”. An original ballad (“Far Away”) provides a wistful change of pace.  As with most great jazz, spontaneity is morphed into a dynamic cohesion.

Mark Sherman The L.A. Sessions will enrich any jazz collection.

TrackList: Woody N’ You; Quasimodo; It Could Happen To You; Celia; Far Away; Whisper Not; Moment’s Notice; Bag’s Groove; Serpent’s Tooth; Bonus Tracks: Quasimodo; Woody ‘N You; Celia

–Robbie Gerson

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