What’s on Your Playlist?

July 24, 2012

Vibraphonist Mark Sherman has performed globally for the last 10 years as a leader, with eight tours to Europe and throughout Russia, China, Korea, the Philippines, Australia, the United States, and Canada.

A winner in DownBeat Magazine’s Critics and Readers Poll from 2007- 2011, Sherman brings a deeply rooted post-bop approach to a program of originals and standards that convincingly carry on the art form with a potent level of invigorating musicianship. His music is relentlessly energetic, hard charging, and brimming with incredible improvisations from his refined skills and deep commitment to the music.

Mark has conducted master classes in over 15 different countries with the sponsorship of Yamaha Corporation and The Pro Mark Corporation. He is currently on the faculty of The Juilliard School, New Jersey City University, and The New York Jazz Workshop. Recently selected as a Jazz Ambassador for the United States State Department and Jazz At Lincoln Center, Sherman toured Russia and Asia for over 30 master classes and performances. In addition, he is on over 160 CD recordings as a sideman and has recorded 10 as a leader.

Mark Sherman’s latest CD, The L.A. Sessions, is earning wide acclaim as one of the top CDs of 2012.

1. “It’s So Easy To Remember” – John Coltrane

Coltrane was the ultimate example of innovation, emotion, incredible sound, technique, and spirituality in music. He changed the way we think about jazz harmony to this day. This cut is an incredible example of creating the perception that less is more as Coltrane negotiates this beautiful melody with flourishes of embellishment. His deep roots, incredible facility, and language make it sound as if it is just a walk in the park as the music should be. So relaxed. It is a true statement on this tune that will last forever. The band plays only once through the entire form of the song. McCoy plays behind Coltrane as if playing for a great singer as the sax lays out that melody. Elvin’s floor tom-tom (like timpani) roll before the final chord is enough to give anyone chills. If this cut can’t motivate you, something is wrong. If I wake up and listen to this cut, the motivation lasts all day, and then some!

2. Wise One – Bobby Hutcherson

As of late I have been listening to Bobby a lot. This CD was made a few years back, and is one of Bobby’s more recent releases (2009). I enjoy the feeling of the CD. He plays some Coltrane tunes his way. As a vibraphonist myself I have been admiring Bobby’s playing for years. He has his own harmonic approach on the vibes which carries into the post bop sound of today. Also the sound he gets on the instrument is unmistakably identifiable. Something about the way he strikes the bars, and his musicality doing it. Whenever I hear a Bobby Hutcherson cut on the radio, I know who it is immediately. There is really a true art to developing that sort of identity.

3. “Quasimodo”- Charlie Parker

Deep down inside somewhere I am just a bebop nut. This line is so beautiful and romantic. It is truly one of my favorites, and I recently recorded a version myself. Bird and Dizzy in their time did the same as Coltrane in altering the way that jazz musicians thought about the harmony. The bebop scale and some of the harmonic turns you hear in Bird language were very fresh for the period. A common practice of Bird was to take well-known standards and write an original melody on the changes and form. He took this one from the song “Embraceable You” by George and Ira Gershwin, but you would never know it when listening. He did the same with countless tunes like “How High The Moon” (Ornithology), “Cherokee” (KoKo), “Indiana” (Donna Lee) and many more. Great jazz foundation material.

4. “Have You Met Miss Jones” – McCoy Tyner 

Of all the pianists I grew up listening to, McCoy is certainly on the top of the list. The stuff he developed harmonically with Coltrane is so incredible. The use of all the different modes and pentatonic scales these guys injected into their language created a modern approach to jazz harmony that is of course what many are still emulating to this day. This cut was recorded in 1963 and reveals an early period in McCoy’s life. His language is so modern for the time. Up-tempo, with Henry Grimes on bass and Roy Haynes on brushes throughout. A burner!

5. “Moment’s Notice” (Blue Trane on Blue Note) – John Coltrane 

Everything on this classic Blue Note recording is gold. Early Coltrane is my favorite period in his career, and discography. There is no beating this recording with a cast of characters who all are legends in the music. Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. Each one of these musicians set the standard for the music in their generation and beyond. I’ve been deep inside this recording for years, but lately I have focused on “Moment’s Notice.” Since this definitive recording of the piece, there have been many versions by other artists, and I myself play it my way when performing live, but I continue to refer to this original version as the best for myself and students to draw from. Kenny Drew is so rooted in the blues and swings like crazy. Nothing like the sound and feel of Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones really was an all-time great drummer that all drummers today need to draw from if they want to sound like the roots and tradition of the music. Recently I had a conversation with Billy Hart about Philly Joe Jones. He told me that even Elvin Jones, when asked “What’s happening, Elvin?” would reply by saying, “Man I’m just trying to sound like that Philly Joe cat.”  I think Philly Joe was and still is the rudimental king of jazz drumming.

6. “Rainbow” (Pianists On The Sunnyside) – Jeff Tain Watts/ Kenny Kirkland 

Kenny Kirkland was one of the most definitive pianists of my generation. He had the complete package, as his fluid approach to the music has always been complete with emotion, incredible rhythm and motive development. You hear all the great piano masters in his playing, as he was able to emulate all the greats and turn it into his own sound. He had a very recognizable approach as he had the consummate feel for the music. The cut “Rainbow” from this Sunnyside release is one of my favorite cuts as it sounds like every pianist I have ever admired all rolled up in one personality. It just so happens that I have an emotional attachment to anything Kenny played, as I grew up playing drums with him in our formative years. Everything he played made those around him feel good. He had an amazing command of the music at a young age. We all miss Kenny. Gone too soon!

7. “The Song Is You” (Dreams and Stories) – Rodney Jones 

This is simply a classic CD all the way. For me Rodney Jones is absolutely one of the top guitarists on the planet. At 20 years old he was playing with Dizzy Gillespie, so foundation and roots have never been a question. He is deeply rooted in blues, bebop, and post bop improvisation. Heavily influenced by Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, and George Benson, he carries the torch of the music in a big way. I have had the privilege of being a close friend and colleague of Rodney’s for 40 years, and his fluid musicianship never ceases to amaze me. This recording was brought out of the archives years ago, and released by High Note records. All the cuts are magical, but here I have chosen “The Song Is You.” It swings so hard from the jump, and the solos on this one are worth transcribing for any student or pro. The guitar and piano solo have valuable lined material for anyone’s development. Marc Johnson, and Jeff “Tain” Watts play beautifully on the entire CD recorded maybe twenty years ago.

8. “Giving Thanks” (Devoted To You) – Joel Weiskopf 

Joel Weiskopf is a pianist and composer who deserves great recognition. He has a tremendous command of the poetic language of jazz, as well great chops and emotion in his writing and playing. He has, I believe, three recordings on the Criss Cross label. This one is amazing as John Patitucci, and Eric Harland join Joel in the ultimate piano trio setting. John Patitucci plays the opening melody of “Giving Thanks” perfectly in tune, with great clarity, and then melts into the polyrhythmic mastery of the Eric Harland for the rest of the cut. Eric Harland is a beautiful mix of the old school and new school. He plays over the bar line with a passion, but can swing straight up when needed. He plays the music with the mix of all the heroes we have grown up with, and has become one of the leaders on his instrument today. This is one of the most beautiful compositions that ever touched me. This tune made me cry (happy crying) on a flight returning home to my family from a long European tour one year. For some reason it triggered a deeper contemplation of my own life, family, and contributions. It is the culmination of everything that I have worked for in the music. It has all the elements of the music.

9. “Oleo” (A World Of Piano) – Phineas Newborn Jr. 

There have been so many incredible pianists in the music like Oscar Peterson, Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Chic Corea, McCoy Tyner and the list goes on and on, but I have to say Phineas Newborn Jr. has got to be the true unsung hero of jazz piano. This guy had chops beyond belief. His real stamp on the music was his ability to solo in octaves with his hands two or three octaves apart on the piano. I had never heard anything like this in my life until I heard Phineas. The octave thing lends such power to the soloing. I think Phineas had everything one tries to have in there playing. He had great command of the harmony, mixed with beyond belief technique and execution. Technically I think you could only compare him to Art Tatum, and Oscar Peterson. The sheer speed of his chops mixed with his amazing note choices make everything he played just incredible. This cut “Oleo” is really fast and displays exactly what I am talking about. I can only imagine how much he must have practiced to get his playing to this level. What a commitment. Just amazing!

10. “The Nearness Of You” – Michael Brecker with James Taylor

This one really moves me. As one of the sax giants in music, Michael Brecker was certainly on the top of the game for the longest time. The combination of his awesome technique and sound made him one of the most identifiable saxophonists ever. This cut is not exactly a jazz cut, like the others I mention, but the total picture displayed in this cut has all the elements of musical mastery in it, without lots of changes and blowing. It is a truly emotional work with a gorgeous arrangement. The simplicity that it is performed with is what makes it fantastic. The easy way James Taylor lays out the beautiful lyric on the song, and the singing emotional sax solo (at the modulation) reveals why Michael was the most in in-demand sax player of the last twenty or more years. He could play the right stuff on anything he approached, and play any style with flawless precision. Michael was the ultimate sideman and a great leader. We all miss him being around.


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