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Sheryl Bailey: Gone, Not Forgotten

As an aspiring guitar player growing up in Pittsburgh, Sheryl Bailey drew inspiration during her high school years from Emily Remler, the accomplished Wes Montgomery-inspired burner and Concord recording artist. “I remember recording some stuff off the radio of her playing a live concert and I transcribed some of the tunes,” she says. “Later, I got to see her play a couple of times when she came to Pittsburgh. Then when I was 18 or 19 years old, while I was going to the Berklee College of Music, Emily was living in Pittsburgh and I took a lesson with her. She was a role model for me, although I think about it more now than I did then. I never wanted to make an issue of separating myself as a woman guitarist or artist, but in retrospect I really see how she opened a lot of doors for women in jazz.”

An accomplished player in her own right and a New York resident since 1995 (the year she placed third in the Thelonious Monk competition), Bailey pays tribute to the late Remler on A New Promise, a potent big-band outing for the Manchester Craftsmen Guild’s MCG Jazz label. Backed by the 18-piece Three Rivers Jazz Orchestra, led by saxophonist-arranger Mike Tomaro, Bailey tackles three Remler compositions: “Mocha Spice” from 1984’s Catwalk, “Carenia” from 1990’s This Is Me and the title track to 1988’s East to Wes. Along with two standards, “You and the Night” and J.J. Johnson’s haunting “Lament,” Bailey contributes three originals, including the title track, a moving ballad she wrote with Remler in mind. She says, “I wrote ‘A New Promise’ in memory of when I would see Emily play when I was in high school. I would just promise myself I would practice very hard and try to one day be a great guitarist like she was.”

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