Recent Listening: Sherr, Catherine, Mondlak


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David Sherr, OtherWorld Music (Bel Air Jazz). Sherr is a composer and player of reed instruments and flutes. His background includes work with Sonny Criss, the San Francisco Ballet, Nelson Riddle, Lalo Schifrin, Don Ellis, Harry “Sweets" Edison, Frank Zappa, Oliver Nelson, Robert Craft, Ray Charles and Quincy Jones, among several dozen others from assorted fields of music. In this CD, he brings together extensive portions of his music with that of J.S. Bach and Olivier Messiaen.

Sherr enlists members of the Bach Aria Group and superb jazz musicians including drummer Joe La Barbera, pianist Tom Ranier and bassist Harvey Newmark. His unaccompanied clarinet exposition of the third movement of Messiaen's Quartet For The End Of Time is brilliantly executed. He integrates free jazz with elements of Messiaen's formidable quartet and succeeds in making all but the most perceptive and experienced listeners wonder about the line between what is written and what is improvised. In his “...Then Have I The Eagle's Powers, Then Soar I Up From This World," Sherr accomplishes a similar feat with themes from Bach's “Aria" from Cantata 56. In it, voices deliver lines in several languages as if they were instruments in counterpoint, the jazz players free-associate with one another at a high level and a solo violin melds with the entrance to the next piece, Messiaen's flute-piano duet “Le Merle Noir."

This is music full of rich satisfactions, more of which become apparent on successive hearings. If Sherr attracts the attention he should with this unconventional and intriguing project on an obscure label, we will undoutedly be hearing more from him.

In his teenage years during the waning days of the big band era, Sherr went on the road as a saxophone player. His web site contains a long, occasionally disturbing and very funny journal of that experience. Here's a sample.

Ernie Fields And His World Famous Orchestra, that's us. A big hit record, a couple of smaller hits, the Dick Clark Show, the Regal theater, the country's Number One R&B band and bookings in some pretty classy joints, like the one the other night near Dallas. And then again...

Tonight it was Temple, Texas, just south of Waco. (Wyatt has been calling it “Whacko" since this morning.) The sign over the entrance said “Rec Center" but “wreck center" would have been more like it. It had broken windows and chairs, a tiny stage and a piano that may never have been tuned. Roosevelt counted thirteen keys that didn't work. He tried to get around the missing notes and wound up sounding like Thelonious Monk.

Billy's bass drum kept slipping. He took a hammer he kept for such emergencies and drove a couple of nails into the rotting floor of the stage to brace the drum. The guy in charge of the building screamed, “What are you doing to my stage," and ordered him to remove the nails. Bill pointed out that the “damage" was already done, so why not leave them in until we were finished, but the guy said no. So Billy pulled the nails and spent the rest of the night trying to keep from kicking the drum off the stage.

To read all of “On The Road At 18," click here.



Philip Catherine, Bert Joris, Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Meeting Colours (Dreyfus). This has been out since 2005. I loved the album when I first heard it and just rediscovered it in a stack of review copies. Guitarist Catherine and trumpeter Joris, both Belgian, are the principal soloists in this collection of Joris's arrangements of Catherine's compositions (plus Ellington's “In a Sentimental Mood") for the superb Brussels Jazz Orchestra. Joris is one of the finest trumpet soloists in the world. His writing is as good as his playing. Catherine, most widely known for his work with Chet Baker, Tom Harrell and Larry Coryell, solos with his customary imagination, economy and love for Wes Montgomery.

Drori Mondlak, Point In Time (Lilypad). Mondlak's quartet is integrated, balanced and musical, with no show-off features for the drummer leader. Mondlak, saxophonist and flutist Karolina Strassmayer, guitarist Cary DeNigris and bassist Steve LaSpina solo with conviction. Except for Frank Foster's “Simone," the pieces are by members of the quartet. The collection might have benefited from more of the grit of DeNigris's “I've Paid Some Blues" and “No Name Blues" and Mondlak's “The Prance," but if Mondlak's aim was to create an atmosphere of thoughtful relaxation, he succeeded. Mondlak has a witty solo on Strassmayer's “It Once Was a Waltz." LaSpina's fluidity and strength are important to the success of this music. Strassmayer's work shows why she is one of the most interesting alto saxophonists under forty. DeNigris's and Mondlak's like-mindedness contribute to the success of the venture.

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This story appears courtesy of Rifftides by Doug Ramsey.
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