Sherman Irby Quartet – Live at the Otto Club – Black Warrior Records BW1004 61:51 ****:
(Sherman Irby, alto sax; Nico Menci, piano; Marco Marzola, bass; Darrell Green, drums)
Even someone whose idea of jazz is based on the music they hear in their dentist’s office could recognize the strength and beauty of Sherman Irby’s alto saxophone playing. Irby, who is the lead saxophone in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, has the kind of bright tone and masterful sense of timing that is rare in a world of show off saxophonists. A recording of Irby and his quartet at the Otto Club in Napoli, Italy, Live at the Otto Club, is the sound of an extremely talented sax man and his equally talented band putting on a spectacular show.
On Oscar Pettiford’s Bohemia After Dark, a song clearly chosen in tribute to Cannonball Adderley, Irby’s solos are superb not only in their sense of space and melodic invention, but also in the way they serve the swing of the song, finding pockets of the beat to insert bluesy melodic phrases. On Depth, a song by Roy Hargrove, with whom Irby played with from 1997 to 2000, he plays joyous, energetic solos that highlight Hargrove’s ascending melody lines. Also on Depth, drummer Darrell Green plays a kinetic drum solo in which he sounds like a school marching band’s entire drumline. On Coltrane’s Countdown, Irby pays tribute to ‘Trane by switching his style up to come closer to the latter’s "sheets of sound." Mention must also be made of Nico Menci, whose piano playing is the perfect mixture of power and grace, especially on Depth.
I highly recommend Live at the Otto Club. I can’t remember the last time I heard a saxophone player I liked as much as I like Sherman Irby.
TrackList: Bohemia After Dark, Depth, Laura’s Love Song, Countdown, Four, In Walked Bud