The Motive Series highlights a compositional philosophy that strives "for happiness and love through the continuous organization and exploration of sound and harmony." In addition, Mark Sherman describes his thought process as beginning with a simple melodic or rhythmic "motive," which he then builds and transforms into a complete song. This disc exhibits these tenets and more. The music is a cheerful combination of engaging ideas with a substantial dose of swing in evidence.
Sherman's varied musical experiences include five years of legitimate percussion studies at Julliard, numerous demanding orchestral performances, and stints with Peggy Lee and Larry Coryell. Therefore it is no surprise that his technical prowess on vibraphone shines on these tunes. The rest of the ensemble performs admirably, bolstered on two cuts by the always powerful improvisation of Michael Brecker.
Each tune save one is given a motive number and a title name. For example, cut two, dedicated to the late pianist Kenny Kirkland, is called "Motive #10 Judaican." A long serpentine melodic idea floats over changing meters of 4/4 and 6/4, making for some very interesting listening. Sherman and Brecker play the intricate melody in tandem, setting the stage for a romping vibes solo, followed by Brecker's modal fireworks. The rhythm section provides ample foundation as support.
"Motive #4 Venture Within" has a distinct Bill Evans quality, reminiscent of "Very Early." You can almost imagine Evans smiling as this group joyously presents Sherman's vision, played in 3/4, like two of the other tunes. Sherman handles most of the solo chores, Palombi adding his substantial solo voice as well. "Nature Boy," one of the two standards, follows the traditional pattern of Latin sections alternating with straight swing. Sherman mixes some bluesy passages with 16th note bursts, followed by Farnham's similar example, punctuated with expressive chord accents. Next, vibes and drums trade groups of sixteen and eight, highlighting Horner's crisp thoughts.
"Motive #3 That Moment" is another excellent example of Sherman's compositional view. An intro of descending chords ushers in an extended melody that includes plenty of twist and turns. Played as a ballad, the tune is perfectly suited to the unique possibilities of the vibraphone. The shimmering quality of metal struck with precision and passion compels attention. Seemingly simple on the first run through, repeated listening will allow further discovery of many subtle touches. That is precisely what good jazz is all about.
A wonderful reality in today's world is the proliferation of good quality recordings from small labels, since artists are no longer limited to a handful of major companies. Sherman's own company, Mile High Productions, helped craft this disc. Recording quality is good throughout, a worthy testament to artists taking more control of their own product. Take note of this uplifting infusion of vibraphone-driven originality.