By: Edward Blanco
A fixture of the Los Angeles jazz scene that has been performing and recording for three decades, composer and vibraphonist Mark Sherman enlists the help of three of LA’s finest jazz musicians for a monster recording simply titled, The L.A. Sessions. Joining him for this latest release are pianist Bill Cunliffe, featured here on the Hammond B 3 organ, guitarist John Chiodini and drummer Charles Ruggiero—together forming an unusual quartet that eschews the normal piano and bass rhythm instruments.

Always wanting to do an album of some of his favorite bebop and other jazz standards, The L.A. Sessions captures his interpretations of classic tunes from jazz masters such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane to Milt Jackson and Bud Powell. As a drummer in his younger days, Sherman had previously performed all of the pieces on the album, but as a vibraphonist, these old charts take on new spins performed by the new combo of vibes/guitar/organ as never before. Of the nine selections found here, Gillespie’s “Woody N’ You,” Parker’s “Quasimodo” and Bud Powell’s “Celia” are repeated in a slightly different version as bonus tracks providing a double dose of these standards.

Drummer Ruggiero and Cunliffe deliver excellent solos on the immortal standard “It Could Happen To You,” while Sherman remains pronounced throughout the entire session. The bebop sound is clearly in play on such tunes as “Celia,” Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice” and the fast and furious Davis composition, “Serpent’s Tooth” where Chiodini’s guitar lines mark the number. Not everything is quick or falls within the boppish flair however. Sherman’s original “Far Away” is the balladic piece of the album featuring a soft and warm texture; it is simply a beautiful tune. Known for his cool swinging solos, the late great vibraphonist Milt Jackson would be proud of the cool manner in which Sherman treats one of his signature tunes “Bags Groove.”

One can tell that Mark Sherman and his talented quartet had fun recording The L.A. Sessions. The music moves to a dynamic groove reinvigorating old warn-out standards with exciting new arrangements that feature a new instrumental mix. The result of course is a new album of familiar classics that sound entirely new. Kudos for Sherman who successfully stamps his electrifying style on standards interpreted by many others before him, but not quite like this L.A. Session.
Year: 2012 Label: Mile High Records Artist Web: