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Mark Sherman is a fresh, clear, bright voice on the vibes. This is apparent from the first track of The Motive Series , where the often-lugubrious "Nature Boy" bolts out of the tepid jungle into daylight: in this arrangement, it snaps, crackles, and swings. His unique sound is also obvious on the material that follows, mostly original pieces that are varied and tuneful, spanning the gamut from burners (the dynamic "Motive #10 Judaican," with a blistering Brecker) to lovely ballads ("Motive #3 That Moment") and moody pieces ("Motive #11" being the perfect sonic translation of its subtitle, "Always Reaching").
But while Sherman is fresh, he's hardly new. Part of Larry Coryell's group for over five years and trained at Julliard, where he's given clinics, he's played with the New York Philharmonic and the Joffrey Ballet as well as Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, and Ruth Brown. Sherman has also produced releases for Rodney Jones and Coryell. The Motive Series" is his sixth CD since 1986, three of which appeared on his own label, Miles High Productions. This one comes with generous praise from Joe Locke, another fine vibraphonist, who says, "I hear the voices of Bags and Bill Evans and Trane and McCoy and so many others all expressed through the medium of his mallets."
I have to agree with Locke. More, Sherman has assembled an excellent band that does full justice to his ideas. There's a pleasing balance in this group, especially between the vibes and Allen Farnham's lyrical, energetic piano, which enhance rather than muddy each other. His compositions are arresting, melodic and direct. My favorite (so farthis CD will get many repeat plays) is "Motive #1," with its imaginative harmonic structure and changing phases.
Add to this a soulful but non-sappy rendition of Willard Robison's classic "Old Folks," and you have a splendid package with a satisfying mix of darkness and light. The Motive Series should elevate Mark Sherman to the prominence he deserves.