Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Mark Sherman is a jazz vibraphone player with a highly develop bebop acumen. For many years, Sherman has dreamed of making a bebop album,” I grew up listening to Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Ben Webster, Sonny Stitt, Dizzy Gillespie, and, Bud Powell…,” Sherman recalled.

Last year, despite touring and teaching at The Julliard School, and New Jersey City University, Sherman found time to make that dream album “L. A. Sessions,” which has nine bebop oldies that Sherman redecorated. The album is stellar from head to toe. I Dig Jazz questioned Sherman about his fascination with bebop music, and the making of "L.A. Sessions".

The instrumentation of “L.A. Sessions” is vibes, organ, guitar and drums. Why did you go with a non-traditional rhythm section?

The truth is I was not planning on doing a CD in California at all. The option with Apogee (a company that manufactures electronic products for musicians, producers and engineers) fell in my lap, and they have an amazing studio where they test all their products, but it is mainly used as a rock studio for presentations, and things like that.

They had no grand piano, but they had a beautiful Hammond B3. The live gig I did in LA was with Bill Cunliffe, Charles Ruggiero, and Dave Robaire. Cunliffe played piano on the gig. He said he was cool to play B3 on the date, so that became the format. As I pondered the situation I realized that doing an organ trio CD of bebop and standards could be a great sound with the vibes in front. 

 What do you find fascinating about bebop?

What fascinates me most about music in general is innovation, and those musicians who perpetually forge ahead. Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie did just that, and changed the way jazz musicians of their time used harmony when soloing, and writing. They employed the various scales we call bebop scales into the music which in that period was more in the swing era harmonically.

When you perform live, are the songs on “L. A. Sessions” part of the repertoire?

Yes. These days when I perform live I cannot even imagine doing a concert without playing at least one tune by one of the above mentioned jazz masters. I might not play every tune from the CD. Last weekend I played Friday, and Saturday night at The Kitano (New York's only Japanese owned hotel) with my quartet. We played “Quasimodo,” in the first set, and "Hot House" to open the second set. Also tunes like these lend themselves to loosening up the players. 

How so?

They are great vehicles for soloing so they have a great effect on the way the player’s execute everything in the set after those tunes. I have done shows where we started with an original, and it felt a little tight. Not as relaxed as I would like. Then I call a tune like “Quasimodo, and the whole band just loosens up. It is fascinating how that happens.

Why did you decide on the nine bebop classics over others such as “Confirmation,” “Cherokee, Donna Lee,” and “Salt Peanuts,” for example?

The truth is I could do a multi-volume series of CD's like " L.A. Sessions". There are so many great bebop tunes like the ones you have listed, not to mention all the great standards. I wanted to include Bird, Dizzy, Miles, Bud Powell, Coltrane, Benny Golson, and Milt Jackson this time.

Also with some of the tunes I chose, I had been assigning them to my students at The Juilliard School, and New Jersey City University where I teach. So, of course, I must know them well to teach them to the students. It can be quite embarrassing when you can't play a tune you assign to a student.

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