Sherman Irby & Momentum confirms Jazz lives another day!
Since his arrival on the New York scene in 1994, saxophonist Sherman Irby has been establishing himself as an impingement force. Starting as a regular on the vital Smalls scene for three years, Irby has steadily developed his career as a mainstay alto saxophonist through his recording and touring. Two albums for Blue Note led to his longstanding commitment to self-empowerment and artistic freedom and he has continued that since with his own Black Warrior Records. His artistic imperative forged by his participation in the unparalleled Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead Program, Irby has been a featured member of groups led by Marcus Roberts, Roy Hargrove, Elvin Jones, Papo Vazquez, and currently tours with the immortal McCoy Tyner. A member of the JLCO from 1995-97, Sherman rejoined the orchestra in 2005 and serves as both first alto saxophonist and a key arranger. In addition to all of his performing activities, Sherman has developed an excellent reputation as a composer, receiving commissions for works that include Twilight Sounds,and his Dante-inspired ballet, Inferno. Also heavily focused upon youth education Sherman was the regional director for eight years for JazzMasters Workshop, a mentoring program for young children. He has also served as Artist-in-Residence for Jazz Camp West, and as an instructor for the Monterey Jazz Festival Band Camp.
About the Album
For Cerulean Canvas, Irby’s eighth album as a leader and fifth for Black Warrior Records, he brings us a swinging band called Momentum. Comprised of trombonist Vincent Gardner, pianist Eric Reed, bassist Gerald Cannon, and drummer Willie Jones III. with two special guests, trombonist Elliot Mason on three tracks; and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis offers his unique talents. The album presents ten tracks and the band brings all of their collective heart and soul to the proceedings to clearly present the leader’s intent and ownership of the art their synergy is creating.
The repertoire is captivating and expressive, providing brilliant canvases for the musical portraits: deeply grooved blues, poignant ballads, a blistering romp, a refreshing take on an old standard, a Stevie Wonder tune and an intricately crafted exploratory soundscape. Irby composed five of the pieces and shares the solo spotlight generously, but his alto is the primary color that unifies the tracks individually and the overall context that binds them together.
Our Favorite Track
Our favorite track is “Racine.” The opener on the album starts with a beautiful rubato bass melody that brings us into the right frame of mind for the hard swinging and creative melody to come. The Cannonball influence is front and center on this Irby’s original that is edgy and deeply grooving. With adventurousness and angular melodic lines that are flawlessly performed by Irby and Gardner, the band presents the melody. Once the solos start, that is when the real magic happens, deep deep swing with Irby digging in and unfolding melodic lines that are the next evolution of Cannanballisms, excellent. Gardner’s solo is melodic and develops themes nicely through the changes as he tells his story. Reed is just a joy to listen to, swinging rhythms, smooth chordal passages, colorful melodic single lines and style with just the right amount of attitude behind it. All of this just feels right!
Irby’s brilliant collection of tunes on Cerulean Canvas has all the essence of the history of jazz presented in the atmosphere of today’s jazz language. These musicians communicate spectacularly and are fully immersed in the music. Irby’s alto majesty is a wonderful sound to behold with his playful lines and effervescent rhythm, this album is a treat from start to finish. Set back and enjoy the mastery that is Sherman Irby & Momentum.
1 hour 16 minutes
Black Warrior Records
Sherman Irby & Momentum
October 20, 2017