Getting to Know Mark Sherman & His Upcoming Album, Bright Light
Mark Sherman sat down this week with Audiophile Society Label Manager Matt Rose to discuss his new album, Bright Light, now available exclusively at TheAudiophileSociety.com.
MR: You've done a piano record before, but of course you're most well known for your work as a vibraphonist, how did this album come to be: Mark Sherman on piano?
MS: The truth is piano was my first instrument at 8, and when I started playing drums at 13, I eventually at 16 met Kenny Kirkland, and playing drums in his trio. As a teenager when we were growing up in New York, I created the long term quest of learning the poetic language of jazz improvisation. I was always looking over Kenny’s shoulder to learn the language both rhythmically and harmonically. In my mid twenties, I also worked with the great Mike Renzi for many years with all the singers, and I was always hanging with and learning from Mike. So both of those mentors taught me much. I have always done all my writing and teaching at the piano. Learning to reharmonize like Mike Renzi has always been my quest. Anyway, I played as a sideman on piano with Larry Coryell and others for many years, but I never broke out as a leader on piano until the VENTURE band with Mike Clark and Felix Pastorius. I also played vibes in that band. My first real piano leader CD was “My Other Voice”in 2019. Basically, I love playing the piano as much as I love playing the vibes and drums. I just really am motivated by the music, development, and the spirituality of it all.
MR: How was the approach for this album different from past albums?
MS: After “My Other Voice “ which featured an amazing band in Vincent Herring, Ray Drummond, Carl Allen, and Nana Sakamoto, we got hit with the pandemic, and I wrote many new compositions during the 2 year period. I decided it was time to reunite, my band of 6 CDs, and many tours between 2004 and 2012. That would be the band on the current CD. Joe Magnarelli, Dean Johnson, and Tim Horner have always played my original music with the utmost care and purpose set forth. We are all very bonded as friends and musically after 20 years of recording and touring together. This one is different than all others as I feel I have matured a lot more as I have gotten older, and also my language and technique on the piano has grown enough to give me maybe a more solid voice on the music. For me that would be of great importance.
MR: You're joined by the fantastic Joe Magnarelli on the record. What was it like working with Joe?
MS: Joe is a gentle giant of a musician. He has always been the greatest example of mixing the old school and the new school. He is one of the most considerate musicians on the planet. Every note has a purpose. Additionally commitment is the big word. Ex: Mags came to the studio with no music for my originals. When I asked if he had everything he said yes. He memorized 6 originals for the record date. Top tier professional.. That is the way to do it. I always try to do the same. Come to the date studied. It’s a code to live by. I have the utmost respect for Joe. You just need to listen to the uplifting spiritual sound and approach he brings to the music. So deeply rooted and expressive.
MR: This record features seven original songs. What was the process like for writing them, and in particular Suddenly, which is dedicated to your friend Frank Kimbrough.
MS: My writing is what I am most proud of. I feel great when someone likes my tunes. The process is playing the piano and settling on ideas in a symmetrical and enable way. I like using many different styles of chord changes that pretty much all the masters like Parker, Coltrane, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Joe Henderson and all the other great jazz composers have used. I additionally tap into the harmony of composers like Alan Menken and Stephen Sondheim. I like that Disney sound with the Sus-chords and the Sus-add 3. For me, that sound mixed with jazz harmony reaches right into you and touches the heart. My ultimate quest is to do just that.
With “Suddenly” I have done just that with the mixture of harmonic elements used in this tune. This one is emotional for me as I one day received the call of Frank Kimbrough’s death. The title explains it all. I was saddened and in shock after spending 13 years teaching in the very next room from Frank, and playing gigs and jazz camps together. He was a unique and very special musician and person. And the tune has an off center approach which is exactly how Frank was. Always innovative and deceptive.
MR: You've said before that this is the best presentation you've ever done on piano, why do you think that's the case?
MS: I have grown on the instrument in the last 2-3 years of being deep in the shed, practicing and writing. And, I am flat out having fun doing it. It is what we do. The power of seeking your level spiritually, technically, and musically. This recording is simply documentation of how I was playing and interpreting the music on that day. For me documentation helps the growth.
MR: This record was mixed with The Audiophile Society's Meta-Dimensional Sound. Having been involved in Aayushi Karnik's recent record and now your own, how do you think this sound influences the record? How would you describe the sound?
MS: As you know Chesky Records and particularly David Chesky have been a leader in audiophile technology for many years, and have produced maybe over 1000 recordings using this “live” capturing of the authentic sounds of the instruments in real time. The Audiophile Society is using what they call Meta-Dimensional sound processing which creates additional depth and dimension for the listener. You can set the ensemble in many different settings like Carnegie Hall, Village Vanguard, Madison Square Garden etc, but the main advantage is the listener feels the front back and two side views of the music when listening. It has given a real warm quality to the instruments on this current CD “Bright Light”, Joe Magnarelli’s horn sounds like it is coming from the heavens. Very organic sounding to me. I am appreciating what David is doing with this technology. It has literally added additional dimension and appeal to the music.