On The Queen Mary ll with James Burton Jr, Xavier Davis, Jason Stewart, and myself.

Sorry I have not blogged in a while, as I sort of got loaded down with the summer activities. Basically I was 3 times to Europe for concerts since the last tour with Lenny White and Bob Franceschini.

From June 18-22 I had the privilege of teaching at The Juilliard summer jazz camp in Atlanta. I was selected to substitute for Carl Allen teaching drums at the camp, and of course playing on the final concert with the faculty. Many of you don’t know this , but I play a lot of drums as I studied with Elvin Jones as a youngster, and was and still am into Philly Joe Jones, Max Roach, Roy Haynes and all the there great jazz master drummers. So teaching and playing in Atlanta brought back many memories of playing with Kenny Kirkland and Rodney Jones when growing up. The camp was great as we taught many talented aspiring high school jazz players. On Friday night final day of camp the students performed in their combos, and the faculty band performed. What treat to play a concert with Ben Wolfe on bass, Frank Kimbrough, Miles Ozaki, Joe Magnarelli, Marc Vinci, and James Burton jr. I had a wonderful time. One of the highlights of the camp as well for me was Joe Magnarelli and I plunge for 45 minutes everyday during a free period we had. What ball jamming with Mags, trumpet and drums. It was wide open and free and left me with that great feeling of freedom in the music.

I returned to New York on June 23rd and had 4 days home before I departed for Europe. I flew to Napoli and spent 4 5 days there playing festivals. One of the festivals I did was the Marigliano Jazz Festival near Napoli Italy. I did several events at that festival. I played one night with the Craig Hartley Trio with Craig on piano, Carlo De Rosa on bass, and Curtis Florian on drums. A great trio. I had a great playing with these cats. They swing their asses off. Next day I rehearsed with the Antonio Ciacca Big Band, and then did my 2-hour workshop on “Language Skills Fro Jazz Improvisation”. The next night I performed as a guest artist with that big band for the final concert of the festival.

Next day I flew back to New York. It was good to get back to NYC as I had a few gigs and spent 3 weeks with my family, which was great. One of the gigs in New York was a tribute to Bobby Hutcherson at Birdland NYC. This event was sponsored by WBGO and I played with George Cables, Buster Williams, and Victor Lewis. Accompanied by 3 other vibes players Steve Nelson, Warren Wolfe, and Jay Hoggard. We played all Bobby Hutcherson tunes. It was a great night with an all star rhythm section. Then on August 3rd I departed on another Juilliard School event. I performed on the Queen Mary ll cruise ship for a week as it gave me a trans-Atlantic ride to Europe which was my destination for some more jazz festivals.

On the cruise I had a great time playing drums and vibes with James Burton Jr., Xavier Davis, and Jason Stewart. On this setting I did a really interesting thing that I really have never done before. I played drums and vibes. So I would start every tune on drums and when the bass player was soloing I would fade away from the drums and move to the vibes and then take a solo with piano and bass only for a while. Then when finished I would subtly move back tot the drums and finish out the tune. The crowds loved it, and it was a new experience for me as well. Usually it is one or the other. Not both.

After arriving in Southampton the car transported us all to Heathrow airport in London and everyone went their own ways. I went on to Italy where I had a few gigs. One of them was the Isbani Jazz Festival near Salerno. It was a great night of music and I sold lots of CD’s.

Anyway after a few hits in Italy I returned home. Easier said than done as the car my manager sent for me to drive the 2.5 hour drive to Rome was 4o minutes late and then when we finally got on the road we had a flat tire that the driver could not change, and I subsequently missed my flight from Rom-London where I needed to catch my return flight that the Queen Mary 2 had provided. Anyway it cost my manager 434 euro to get me on the last flight out of Pescara Airport, which was 30 km from where the car broke down. Pretty much one of those act of god nightmares we all go through sometimes. Either way I arrived safely home after many hours traveling, but really exhausted. I am off the planes until my California tour and residency on Oct 4th, and then off to Europe again in November with my new band with Bob Franceschini, and Adam Nussbaum called. (THEM)

All in all a great summer with great music. For now it is back to Juilliard Jazz and my other teaching gigs at New Jersey City University and The New York Jazz Workshop.

Played drums and vibes on the QE ll. WHat a ball!

James Burton Jr, Jason Stewart, Xavier Davis, mark Sherman on the Queen Mary ll

Bobby Huterson Tribute at Birdland in NYC with George Cables, Buster Williams, Victor Lewis, and 3 other vibes players. Warren Wolfe, Steve Nelson, and Joy Hoggard.

Marigliano Jazz Festival Napoli italy

 

 

Isbani Jazz festival view

Isbani Jazz Festival

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MONDAY MAY 7  THE NEW YORK JAZZ WORKSHOP BEBOP/POST BOP COMBO BLOG MARK SHERMAN

I was the drummer for combo yesterday, but of course it does not hold the combo back as I love to play, and can control any situation from that vantage point. Having grown up studying with Elvin and playing a lot I can really give the combo the feel it needs, and spread the depth of the rhythmic structure of the music itself. Much of my concept on piano and vibes has arrived as a result of my rhythmic concept, which I got, from playing the drums.

We had Vinnie on bass, a newcomer who played very well, and our other normal diligent players. Dave, Rob, and Matt. We ran through Birdlike (Freddie Hubbard), Black Nile (Wayne Shorter), Beatrice (Sam Rivers), After You’ve Gone, and we attempted to play T Monk’s Pannonica. A difficult set of changes to master. After we played Black Nile the second tune we played, I stopped the band and began to talk about anticipation, and the technique of thinking ahead of the changes, and actually playing ahead in order to command the direction of the line. I demonstrated how being ahead of the changes is always best, and that falling behind is a terrible place to be. Trying to catch the train as it sails by. I demonstrated this a bit at the piano, and then instructed each player to take more choruses of soloing on Black Nile, but this time to play 1-2 quarter notes ahead of the changes. Well I never heard Matt Mayer sound so good. He was jumping ahead and resolving in a way that he never did before. This technique is a vital part of improvisation. Especially when dealing with lots of changes at fast tempos. Playing ahead of where the music actually is in real time is a very effective, and sensible way to be in control of the music and not to get caught by the changes. It has always worked for me, and it was a thrill to hear it change Matt and the others approach on negotiating the changes on the tunes. That anticipation drill helps you lead the direction of the music. After all the music will not stop, so it is easier to be ahead of the game, and use silence or resolution to allow the music to catch you, than for you to be behind the changes, trying to run after the music while negotiating the harmony. Sort of like being ahead of the ball game in the ninth inning, rather than playing catch up ball!!!

Deep stuff really if jazz improvisation is your life as it is mine!!!


Martin Gjakonovski, Lenny White, Mark Sherman, Bob Franceschini

Last night we played our second concert of the tour at “Pizza Express” in London’s Soho section. The music is growing as we dig in more and more. We did have an unfortunate problem at the airport in Cologne as we checked in for our flight. Martin Gjakonovski has been living in Germany for 20 years, but he has a Croatian passport as that is his birthplace. Well because Croatia is not part of the European Commission it is a real problem for him to enter London wither a special visa. My manger, and tour manager for this tour got the work permits for us all, but Martin’s visa had to be treated very carefully because of this problem. Well we got to the check in counter, and they would not give Martin his boarding pass, as something slipped by in the processing, or the airline did not know what they were doing regarding this matter. They said because his visa, and work permit were not stapled to his passport, he would not be permitted to board the plane in Cologne, as they would just send him back to Germany when he arrived in London. As I said in my last blog about the Germany gig, the stress level can really rise when situations like this occur, and it sure did. We were freaking out, and the airline is not in the business of making it easy for the passengers. We were flying on Easy Jet airlines, which really ought to be titled “Difficult Jet”. Of course if that was the name, nobody would buy tickets, so they lie and call it Easy Jet. Subsequently Martin was unable to come to London and make this concert. We arrived at the hotel in London 3 hours before the sound check after a very stressful check in, and I had to sort out a bass player for the gig. It was real drag as Martin has had the music for months and after the first gig he was deep in the music and the band was bonding. Anyway we got bass player named Arnie Somogyi. He did a great job and we made it through the concert ok. Actually it was really burning on the second set. It got to that comfortable place that we need it to be. The club is great, they treated us very well, especially as they understood what we had just gone through. These types of problems can happen, and I have learned over the years on the road that you must remain calm, and not allow it to raise your stress level too much, but it is very tough to control sometimes. I was quite aggravated with this problem, and of course Martin I am sure was devastated that he could not make the second concert. Anyway we made it through alright, but I must add that since the world trade center was bombed the world has really changed for the worse. Traveling is just become so stressful. When they search me sometimes I get the feeling that they are going to stick their hands down my pants. It is really annoying, and an invasion of privacy. The world has really changed!!

Beautiful Italia

Featuring Lenny White, Bob Franceschini, and Martin Gjakonovski

We arrives safely in Cologne Germany on April 11th for our first concert at Altes Pfandhaus, which is the premier jazz room in Cologne Germany. Maybe the only jazz club there. Anyway it is a very cool venue with a circular stage with seating all around the band. While speaking to the audience I tried to sort of turn in circles to reach everyone, but after a while I just gave up that concept, and just looked one way. Anyway it was our first gig and the music began to take shape nicely. Our sets consisted of original compositions by Bob, Lenny, and myself. In addition we played a few standards. Hot House by Tadd Dameron, and Celia by Bud Powell. Really at this point in my career I feel this tremendous need to pay tribute to the jazz masters who have created the bebop foundation for the music we play. Although I have over one hundred original compositions I always play at least one or two tunes by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, or John Coltrane. For me it is correct to present the music in this fashion. Without these guys there would not be the music we live to play. They really innovated, and changed the way we all interpret the harmony. Bob Franceschini and I grew up together. I have known Bob for over 40 years as we attended Music and Art high School together in New York City, so it is such a treat for me to join with Bob on this tour. We have not played together in a while so it has just been amazing to reunite for this music. Bob is one of the fines saxophonists in the world. For me he is ranked in the top ten along with Mike Brecker, Joe Lovano, and Jerry Bergonzi. He is truly in that class. I remember when Bob and I were in high school how we were both Bird, and Coltrane freaks listening constantly to all of the records at high volume. We used to play the records without volume on 10. If there were an 11 on the volume control we would have used it. The short story is Bob flat out is a master of the art of improvisation. He has all the elements you need to play music. Great technique, a warm gigantic sound, and tons of bebop and post bop language to draw from. Just incredible! About a year ago the record producer David Chesky put a CD together for Lenny, Jamey Hadad, and myself to do which entailed creating music with a drums and percussion trio. Lenny and I had a ball together on this recording and spoke of doing some other stuff together, so I finally got the opportunity to put this tour together. Sharing the bandstand with Lenny White has been just a true honor and privilege for me. I was watching Lenny play with Chic Corea, and Return To Forever when I was 14 years old. Totally admiring that band, and Lenny is just an incredible natural musician. He plays the music with a vengeance, and a big smile. Incredible chops, and musicality. In addition he has brought some great tunes to the table for this band. One called “L’s Bop” (Lenny’s Bop) which is a true bebop line on the A section, and a bridge which opens up into some just lush, beautiful chords that are spelled with the harmony of jazz standards. It is very fast, and difficult to execute, but when we get it right it is just a burner. The other tune Lenny has contributed is a tune titled “Wolfbane” which has a middle eastern flavor to it mixed with a strong post bop set up. Kind of like a snake charmers dance with a jazz flavor. It also has some really cool rhythmic hits, which create a great rhythmic structure for the musician to work the language on. Lenny has an amazing ear. He uses no music for all the originals, and just learns everything by ear so fast. I have never seen any drummer learn music this way so quickly, and efficiently. It is really old school in a way, but he makes it work in today’s music perfectly. I am so used to handing the drummer a lead sheet to use. Especially on the first reading, but Lenny uses no music, and gets it right very quickly. He has just amazing ears, and experience in the music having played with the who’s who in jazz for many years. In addition he is a 4-time Grammy winner. A true legend in the music! Adam Nussbaum, and Daryl Hall recommended Martin Gjakonovski to me for this tour. Martin with great musical precision, and he has clearly done his homework. His intonation is first rate, and he has a great feel, and has integrated beautifully into this 4tet. It is a pleasure to have him on the bandstand, and on the road. Really when putting a tour together like this you have to always of course consider the abilities of the musicians, but in addition to the music you really need to consider the personalities of the players. You will travel and spend a lot of time together in some really stressful situations. Traveling these days has become so difficult with security searches, and delays, and all sorts of problems that can occur. So it is vital to select a group of musicians that not only play the music to the highest level, but can also enjoy being together. Otherwise you have some real problematic situations, which just can turn the entire tour into a drag. This time I really selected a great group of musicians who get along on and off the bandstand. Off to London for the next concert.

On plane Germany-London

 

With Herbie Hancock

With Herbie Hancock

With Benny Golson

With Benny Golson

With Carl Allen

With Carl Allen

With Lenny White

With Lenny White

I am so proud to be a graduate, and on the faculty of The Juilliard School. Last night at school there was an incredible evening of celebration for Ron Carter as he has turned 75 years old, and a new Juilliard scholarship was launched in his honor. Fifty thousand dollars awarded yearly to a deserving student in the program. With Danny Glover as the MC for the evening, the program  packed Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. Just a great presentation of  many of Ron’s tunes arranged by the students, and performed with the guest jazz masters. There were also performances by the Ron Carter nonet, and the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra performing selections from Ron’s big band recording. A who’s who of jazz history was there to support this event. It was a ball to hang with many of my colleagues from the faculty, as well as the legendary guests that performed with the students on the concert. What a great opportunity for the Juilliard jazz students to play with, Hubert Laws, Benny Golson, Herbie Hancock, Buster Williams, Russell Malone, Ron Carter, Carl Allen, and Lewis Nash.

When I was at Juilliard I was playing in the orchestra with the likes of Sexton Ehrling, James Conlon, Zubin Mehta, George Solti, Leonard Bernstein and others. They had no jazz program at Juilliard when I attended. Wynton Marsalis and I used to just jammed in the hallways to find somewhere to play. What a program. What a night. Just amazing!

Mark Sherman Quintet with Jerry Bergonzi @ The Kitano Jazz NYC

What an inspiring weekend of music at The Kitano jazz room in NYC with my band of 8 years with Tim Horner, Allen Farnham, and Dean Johnson. Jerry Bergonzi was a guest with us this weekend. In addition Jerry stayed at my house for the weekend so we played a lot of music at home, and at the club at night. He is flat out an incredible musician, and certainly one of the top 5 saxophone geniuses alive today. His playing is so fluid, and his language is so deeply rooted. It was a truly motivating to play and hang with him for 3 days. In addition he is just a great cat full of love, and music. Many colleagues, and friends came out to see us, as we tore up tunes like Quasimodo, Hot House, and many originals, and re-harmonized standards. It was a fantastic weekend.

What a great 2 days I spent with Paquito D’Rivera and an amazing group of musicians. We recorded a piece he wrote by commission for the Jose Limon Dance Company. The work is titled “Ladies in White” (Ballet) for chamber jazz ensemble. With pianist/producer Daniel Freiberg in the control room, the band was Paquito of course, Alex Brown on piano, Marco Granados on flute, Diego Urcola, on trombone and euphonium, Jisoo OK on cello, Gregg August on bass,  Eric Doob on drums/percussion, Arturo Stable, and Paulo Stagnaro on hand percussion, and myself Mark Sherman on a concert marimba.

Let me start out by saying, Paquito D’Rivera is absolutely one of the finest musicians on this planet. I know he was a child prodigy saxophonist, and clarinetist. I believe he played a concerto with the main symphony in Cuba at 11 years old, and of course today he is known for his deeply rooted jazz playing. His cross of Latin flavored music with the bebop, and classical roots has made him tops in his field. The music he composed for the ballet is in 3 movements, and will eventually be performed live with the ballet. Hopefully many times.

I have done many recording dates in my life, but this one was absolutely one of the most challenging dates I’ve ever done. The music was extremely challenging. It required a lot of attention from all the musicians including Paquito himself. I know I practiced many of the lines and various marimba parts for many hours just to work out stickings, and just get it in my head and hands. Same I am sure for all the players. I was most impressed by many of the other musicians some who I had worked with before, and some not.

Marco Granados is a flautist I have never heard, but wow he sounded beautiful, as we doubled many melodies together. He was very precise with great intonation. The high end of the marimba with flute doubling is a great sound.

Alex Brown is a pianist to be heard more of. He plays his butt off. Not only did he execute the parts beautifully as a classical pianist, but also his solos were really great jazz solos. He has a bit of a Lyle Mays feeling at times, but again deeply rooted in the jazz tradition, with great command of the language, and he played the Latin grooves really well. A pianist I would call anytime!

Gregg August is a bassist that I had worked with in the past, but I really got to hear him play at a higher level on this session. His intonation is beautiful, he plays Arco (with the bow) really well, his groove is strong, and of course he reads well in order to play this piece in the first place. Very solid with a beautiful sound.

Jisoo OK was another highlight of the date playing cello. She was much more than OK. She was amazing. An incredible body to her sound. It is rich, in tune, and passionate. She played the parts with a vengeance for the music. She had technical precision and a lot of emotion in her playing. I think she touched us all with that. The cello is such a beautiful instrument.

Diego Urcola played trombone and a baritone horn, or I think they also call it a Euphonium. What a beautiful player. He played both instruments with great skill. He blew some beautiful solos on the Euphonium that had the smoothness of a flugelhorn. His improvising skills are excellent, as he has a broad understanding of the language. I have had Joe Magnarelli playing trumpet, and flugelhorn on several of my CD’s in the past. I love that sound of flugelhorn, and vibes, and immediately upon hearing Urcola play I had the same smooth feeling except a bit lower, and deeper.

I found Eric Doob to be a very multi dimensional drummer, covering all the styles needed in this piece. He had a broad understanding of the various Latin feels, as well as could swing well.

Latin percussion, and hand percussion is an area of music that I have always faked very well on many jingles, and film dates in my life. I used one groove my whole life, and it worked for those types of music, but whenever I was asked to play a real Latin gig with authentic musicians, I always told the leaders, “please get an authentic player. I am just a jazz musician. I never really knew all the traditional types of hand drum grooves, but the two percussionists Arturo Stable and Paulo Stagnaro that Paquito hired for this recording sure did. They were grooving in their booth with an amazing array of instruments.

A group of musicians getting together to honor the code we live by, which is to take the music as serious as life itself. To come together having never really known each other at all, but all with the same goal. In this case to do justice to the incredible work of music Paquito D’Rivera composed. Every part written mattered, and had great purpose. Clearly this work was well calculated, and thought out. I really admire the work done on this project, because rather than remain in a pattern, Paquito seems to be always forging ahead looking for new things to create, and new ways to contribute to the art form.  That is something I have always tried to do in my own life, and working with masters like Paquito only sets a great example for us all. Hats off to you Pacman for this incredible contribution, and thanks so much for having me on the recording. I am very grateful to have been part of it!

Paquito D’Rivera