Monday, February 6, 2012

In review---High Diving Jazz-Style

Mark Sherman
With Bill Cunliffe, John Chiodini, Charles Ruggiero
The LA Sessions
Miles High Records

While I have reviewed instrumental recordings featuring an array of instruments Mark Sherman’s The LA Sessions is the first vibraphone album that has ended up in my mailbox. Vibraphones have wonderful resonance that warms up the heart chakra and the be bop jazz classics that appear on this recording certainly provide an uplifting groove.  Sherman’s quartet includes Bill Cunliffe on hammond organ, John Chiodini on guitar, and Charles Ruggiero on drums and this combo's be bop renovations turn heads and get feet tapping.

This uptempo album features songs by Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Milt Jackson, John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Burke Van Heusen, and one lone track by Sherman.  The album acts as an homage to the musicians who inspired Sherman during his formative years and when at 18 years of age he switched from drums to vibraphone thus launching off an impressive career.  He’s now president of Miles High Records, a label that assists independent musicians via digital media.

Other than spreading good vibrations through four instruments, the musicians used a rare opportunity, studio time at Berkeley Street Studios to express their musical passion--playing these be bop classics, and engaging in a vibrant musical conversation in which there is no double bass in hearing range.  The musicians take turns at the spotlight and remind me of divers taking turns off a diving board.  In this case you hear some brilliant moments that almost take your breath away.

The musicians’ interpretation of Van Heusen’s It Cold Happen To You offers some of those moments.  You can certainly hear Sherman’s dexterity on the vibraphones and the other musicians chipping in brilliant moments.   The musician’s rendition of Celia also offers an excursion down jazz alley.  Far Away floats away on a dream when the musicians slow down the tempo and sensual guitar shows up.

If I had to choose one word to describe this recording it would be “fun”.  The musicians remind me of children exploring the world and in doing so they offer their listeners a respite from everyday life.

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