The L.A. Sessions
If vibraphonist Mark Sherman sounds thoroughly relaxed yet engaged on this quartet offering, consider the company he’s keeping: guitarist John Chiodini, drummer Charles Ruggiero and keyboardist Bill Cunliffe, this time around on Hammond B3 organ. Of course, the level of comfort may also have something to do with the tunes Sherman has chosen to perform—tunes that, save for one original piece, he’s performed throughout his career. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and, of course, fellow vibraphonist Milt Jackson are among the artists-composers saluted, and together they inspire a vibrant, soulful and swinging collection.
It helps that both Cunliffe and Chiodini, like the session’s leader, know their way around a blues. There’s abundant proof here of their finesse in that regard, but particularly enjoyable is Jackson’s “Bags’ Groove,” which capitalizes on their collective talents with afterhours aplomb. Drummer Ruggiero, meanwhile, neatly tends to Bags’ groove before exerting his own personality with a mix of muscle and wit.
What is essentially an ad hoc ensemble never sounds like one as the bop-centric album unfolds. “Woody N’ You,” the opener, boasts a string of solo choruses by Sherman, Cunliffe and Chiodini that fluidly complement each other. It’s a template for much of what follows: an elegantly swinging, brush-stroked arrangement of “Quasimodo”; a percussive take on “Moment’s Notice” that underscores the rapport swiftly developed by Sherman and Ruggiero; and, among other treats, “Celia,” a delightful, dust-free reprise of the Bud Powell ode. As for “Far Away,” Sherman’s sole contribution, it sparks an alluring, mid-album interlude.