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!!!


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

Great concert in Fara In Sabina just 40 km north of Roma. Wow way up high in the mountain above Roma with the most amazing view. I was a guest artist with the Antonio Ciacca trio. We played Antonio’s well calculated re-harmonizations of standards and a few normal standards like “Bolivia” by Cedar Walton. Antonio opened up trio with his bass player and drummer from Italy of many years, Nicola Muresu from Sardinia, and the drummer Nicola Angelucci. They were really relaxed, swinging players. It all swung real hard from the opening standard “You’re My Everything” until the final Antonio Ciacca composition Lago’s Blues, a straight eighth tune that any great player could dig into. I had visions of what my colleague and friend the late Michael Brecker might have done to this tune. He would have torn it up, as it combines and F vamp, and F blues. I had a blast playing it. The great a show with Antonio Ciacca is it is packed with music that is deeply rooted in the jazz tradition, filled with standards, blues, and rhythm changes, as well as Antonio speaks before the tunes about the history of the music. He is so knowledgable about jazz. There is a lot info music history information behind each description of the tunes. I can see why Jazz At Lincoln Center, and Wynton Marsalis chose Antonio as the director of programming. A position Antonio held for the last 5 years. So each show is filled with the great performances, and the music history. Something I myself could incorporate more of in my own shows as a leader.

After the concert we slept in a Monestery that looked to be thousands of years old. Just a spooky, maze of rooms that I guess the nuns, and priests from the church stayed in. Really an amazing looking place. All in all a great night.

Antonio Ciacca Quartet

I was hit by a taxi cab while crossing 42nd street, and 6th avenue in New York City on April 22nd. I suffered a nasty head shot with a bad hematoma, concussion, and 25 stitches,  2 broken fingers, a broken shoulder in 2 places, and a terrible cut down to the bone on my left thumb. Actually I am lucky to be alive. It is a humbling experience to be walking across the street, and then to wake up from being knocked out to a stranger holding your head saying, “don’t move, your head is bleeding really badly”. Anyway I have healed up pretty well since the accident except for my left hand which is still messed up. I can play, but I feel I am still working at 60%.

Last week was the first week I worked in 8 weeks as a jazz player playing vibes. The great Italian pianist, Antonio Ciacca a big figure in the jazz world, was kind enough to give me 6 nights at The Setai Hotel “Bar on Fifth” on 36th street and 5th avenue in New York.  I played trio and quartet with various different drummers, and bass players. Antonio played with me to make it a quartet for 3 of the nights, and the bass players were David Wong(Roy Haynes band, and Jimmy Heath), Martin Wind, and Mike Karn who is as good a saxophonist as a bass player. A super talent he is!! The drummers were Pete Van Nostrand (Kenny Barron band, Jimmy Heath band) for 5 nights , and Quincy Davis for 1 night.  The music was rewarding, motivating, and spiritual all the way through. These players are all at the top of their game, and we just ripped through many standards, blues, and rhythm changes all week. I am truly grateful to Antonio Ciacca for this opportunity to come back playing strong. I play 3 sets a night for 6 nights which allowed me to test my stamina, and of course have a great time playing, which I live for. Of course after each night I was on ice like an athlete, and in physical therapy in the mornings. I was really hurting, and swollen after each night, but the music keeps me going, and I am grateful to still be here to play. It is like being an athlete without the 15 million dollars a year, whirlpools, massage and 24/7 physical maintenance. Not easy. Thanks to Antonio Ciacca for a great week!

The Quartet

Well we set off on tour for our first stop in Oldenburg Germany to perform at Jazz Club Alluvium on Feb 23rd. A nice venue run by a singer named Al Yasha Anderson. She is originally from Brooklyn New York, and now residing in Oldenburg. The concert was a nice start to our 6 concerts in Germany, and Switzerland. We are preparing new music for a recording in Switzerland on February 26+27 live at Chorus Jazz Club. We have been playing all new music by Tim Horner, Allen Farnham, and myself. Some very challenging stuff. On morning of the 24th we drove to Rostock Germany where we played for the second time at Upsprung, which is a nice little club in Rostock in the northeast of Germany. The music grows each night as we pour our hearts and souls deep into what we love to do. Next day we drove to Schwann Germany where we played at this really fantastic little place called Kulterschanke, run and owned by Sylva Tkotsch. We met Sylva last year when we performed in Rostock, and she absolutely insisted we come to perform at her venue this year. It was a great concert as it was completely acoustic with no microphones anywhere. A little stage which put us very close to each other. It felt great on the stage, as I could hear really well, and the usual monitor systems that these clubs have were not there to ruin the sound onstage. It was like playing in our living room. The music really took off that night. Before the concert, as the audience filed into the club, I noticed there were many older folks coming in as well as a younger crowd, so I felt that it would nice to give them a standard tune to start the set. We did that and then continued with our original music as we prepare for the recording on the 26-27th. Much to my surprise they were very enthusiastic about the original music. They really ate it up. We sold many CD’s and it ended as a great night.

Now comes the tough leg of the tour. We departed at 6am on the 26th, drove 2hours to Hamburg airport. Unloaded, returned the car, checked in, and took our flight to Zurich. We need to be in the Geneva area, but the flights from Hamburg to Geneva were so expensive I chose to go to Zurich as we had 85-euro flights. Upon arriving at Zurich we caught a train to Lausanne to arrive for the concert/live recording at Chorus Jazz Club. We got to the hotel at 4:40pm. Rested I hour and went to the sound check. Ate dinner and hit at 9pm. 2 burning sets to a packed club. This club has become our home away from home. We are so well received in Switzerland in general, but it is our 5th year playing at Chorus, and the same faces, and friends keep coming. Sold a load of CD’s and even though we were totally exhausted from the trip that day, and no sleep, we played our asses off. This band is incredible. For me it is a dream come true to work the music to this level, and simply to be on the stage performing at this level at this point in my life. I have dreamed of this path since I was 13 years old, when I first heard Elvin Jones play live at The Village Vanguard. I actually broke in tears during rehearsal of a ballad that Tim Horner wrote titled “I Wish I Knew You”, as I became over whelmed with the beauty of the music, and the gratitude I have for these musicians, the music, my family, thinking of lost friends, and the difficulties of life. Another song we play is a beautiful waltz dedicated to the bass player Bob Bowen who was tragically run over by a truck while riding his bike in New York. The song is titled “The Place I Feel Free”, composed by Tim Horner as well. It refers to Bob’s stories of his life, as he spoke to Tim, and said how the one place he feels free is when he is riding his bike, as the day-to-day problems of life disappear when riding. How sad, and ironic he was killed in that place he felt so free! Life is so fragile out here for us all, and we must continue to be grateful for what we have. I miss my family when on the road, but my road family keeps me moving, and I am very grateful for the music. It makes me feel free, alive, and continuously motivated to, play better today than I did yesterday!! Second night of recording at Chorus tonight. Can’t wait to hear it when finished!

Mark Sherman in Rostock

Allen Farnham

Dean Johnson

Tim Horner

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Today I was on the panel of faculty members from the Juilliard School jazz department for a forum on the subject matter “How To Practice”. The panel was made up of department chair, and drummer Carl Allen, saxophonist Ron Blake, pianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist Ben Wolfe, drummer Kenny Washington, and myself. What an honor to do this, as well as it is a subject matter that I feel very strong about, as I have preached this to students globally for many years. I have seen so many of my students over the years return to the next lesson having not improved. Many times it is because their practice method is not good. As human beings we always want to improve fast, and be the best quickly. Unfortunately this approach does not work. Whoever  invented the expression “practice makes perfect” should be hung. It is a bad guidance quote. It should read “Perfect practice makes perfect”. There is that fine line between practicing properly, and not.  Many student come back week to week saying ” I practiced 5 hours a day”, but I do not see an improvement relative to 5 hours a day for a week. That to me means the student has wasted a lot of time.  Practicing wrong will surely waste your valuable time. That is what I spoke about. Practicing slow, and building the speed up slowly, rather than going fast and repeating constant mistakes. Focusing on one phrase, or measure at a time. How to practice scales, and other skills we work on as players, of jazz, and classical music. The other five of my esteemed colleagues had fantastic things to say, like learning the music away from the instrument in your head. Focusing on one thing at a time. making a practice journal. Using a stopwatch or kitchen timer to force yourself to practice one scale or drill at a time for a specific amount of time. Things like this. Anyway it was a really informative forum for the students who are already some of the finest young jazz students in the country, as the curve at Juilliard is extremely high. Getting into the school is probably one of the most competitive auditions nationwide. They just don’t accept anyone. I think it is even harder to get in than when I attended, and the year I got in they accepted only 2 students out of maybe 100 or more applicants. Myself, and Dan Druckman, the  current 2nd percussionist in the New York Philharmonic, and head of the percussion program in the classical percussion department at Juilliard. I really believe in this type of forum/masterclass, as with a group of faculty members such as the one mentioned here, the students get a really deep look at how these seasoned pros have dealt with the topic throughout their own quest for improvement. I sure wish they had a jazz program run by someone like Carl Allen when I went to Juilliard, although my extensive classical training has served me well in my own career, and has made me a better all around musician. I was watching these students suck up every word we said, as each faculty member got up, and spoke for 20 minutes or so, about there method for practice, and improvement. The funny thing was we all basically have similar approaches, but different wording, and slightly different concepts, but each approach was valid, and spelled the same formula for success. Those students are very fortunate to have faculty members who care enough, to take their valuable time to do this type of class. What a fantastic environment to learn in, being surrounded by this faculty of people like Rodney JonesRon Carter, Kenny Barron, Steve Turre, Eddie Henderson, Andy Farber, Billy Drummond, Bob Stewart, Antonio Ciacca, Joe Temperly, and the six mentioned above (forgive me if I forgot anyone). Next week’s forum is with legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb. I will be there!