Family First, by New York-based vibraphonist and educator Mark Sherman, revolves around similar concepts that reflect his spiritual, artistic, and personal priorities to reach, touch and move people. This is his second album with a working band that has developed a distinctive sound which includes the unison playing of Sherman's vibes and Joe Magnarelli's flugelhorn.
Sherman uses the ten pieces on the recording as vehicles for studying harmonic and rhythmic possibilities, mainly within the post-bop legacy. Examples include "Explorations, (a modern interpretation of John Coltrane's "sheets of sound ), the title piece (where the lush melody provides many avenues for harmonic articulation), and the playful circle of tonalities on "Symmetrical. The only exception is "Fantasize," inspired by the cinematic lifting and sweet melodies of guitarist Pat Metheny.
Sherman leads his band beautifully through the challenging execution of Paquito D'Rivera's "Wapango, where the band and guest conga player Chembo Corniel develop intense interplay, following a fiery Afro-Cuban rhythmic structure. The cover of the complex swinging "Punjab," by saxophonist Joe Henderson, reveals yet again the rich and flowing unison vamp sound of the band (bringing an updated color to the original execution by Henderson's trumpeter Kenny Dorham and pianist McCoy Tyner). The concluding track is another bop classic, Jimmy Heath's "A New Blue, a dramatic, playful exploration and extension of the blues form, with beautiful solos by Magnarelli, Sherman and Farnham.
Family First is a beautiful demonstration of a sometimes intense, sometimes loose, but always elegant and swinging band.
Explorations; Fantasize; Family First; With Hope; Wapango; Lazy Autumn; Symmetrical; Punjab; We'll Be Together Again; A New Blue.
Mark Sherman: vibraphone, percussion (2,4); Joe Magnarelli: trumpet, flugelhorn; Allen Farnham: piano; Dean Johnson: bass; Tim Horner: drums, congas (4); Chembo Corniel: congas (4,5).
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