The eminently swinging Family First is vibraphonist Mark Sherman's second release with this working band, the previous one being One Step Closer (CAP, 2005).
Sherman has been a stalwart of the mainstream scene for twenty years, and brings a true enthusiasm and deep love to this style of jazz. There can be no argument about the honesty of this recording. The main quartetSherman, Joe Magnarelli (trumpet/flugelhorn), Allen Farnham (piano) and Dean Johnson (bass)are extremely tight, and together produce a distinctive sound where drums are not missed one bit.
The pieces, mostly originals by Sherman (some inspired by players such as John Coltrane and Pat Metheny) with some old and new standards, run the gamut of feels and emotions and make for a well-paced set. Some of the tunes venture towards the pop side of things, while others are used as vehicles for blowing over the changes.
The liner notes, written by Sherman, go into detail about the musical structure of many of the tracks. However, knowledge of music theory and terminology is not needed to enjoy the swing of the band and the crackling solos that everyone contributes. What is interesting is that if you can understand what Sherman is saying, it becomes immediately audible, which increases the listening pleasure. Sherman also waxes poetic about the sound of the vibes and the flugelhorn playing in unison, which he describes as the sound of this band, is very attractive.
Family First is an extremely solid set that is deeply felt by the players. Mainstream listeners will find much to enjoy on both the large and small scale.
Track Listing: Explorations; Fantasize; Family First; With Hope; Wapango; Lazy Autumn; Symmetrical; Punjab; We'll Be Together Again; A New Blue.
Personnel: Mark Sherman: vibraphone, percussion; Joe Magnarelli: trumpet, flugelhorn; Allen Farnham: piano; Dean Johnson: bass; Tim Horner: drums, congas (4); Chembo Corniel: congas (4, 5).
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.