Vibraphonist/composer Mark Sherman records as he has over the past twenty years and, unlike others who specialize on this instrument, continues to show no interest in expanding his sound to avant-garde or world music influences. What Sherman does exhibit is his use of Milt Jackson's blues and Bobby Hutcherson's shimmering vibes-style. Sherman's Family First again demonstrates that he is one of the best of the current vibraphonists on the scene. This album is very similar to One Step Closer (CAP, 2005) insofar that the personnel is identical, with the exception of tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, who is not present on this session.
Most of the synergy of the album derives from a combination of Sherman's compositions and performance, along with one of Philadelphia's best kept secrets, trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, who shares the melody lines with the vibaphonist. Otherwise, this first rate rhythm section of pianist Allen Farnham, bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Tim Horner keeps the music sizzling. Conguero Chembo Corniel appears on both "With Hope" and Paquito D'Rivera's "Wapango."
The Lane/Fischer ballad, "We'll Be Together Again," gives the group a chance to make reference to the vibes quintet setting of the past, and a cover of Joe Henderson's "Punjab" revisits one of the favorite bop tunes of the 1960s.
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 (2,4); Joe Magnarelli: trumpet, flugelhorn; Allen Farnham: piano; Dean Johnson: bass; Tim Horner: drums, congas (4); Chembo Corniel: congas (4,5).