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Mark Sherman: One Step Closer

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Juilliard alumnus Mark Sher-man, a vibist and pianist, sticks to vibes (and a bit of marimba) on this pleasant album. His light touch recalls Red Norvo, although his style runs closer to Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson. His rhythm section includes pianist Allen Farnham, bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Tim Horner. Trumpeter Joe Magnarelli also appears on most cuts, and guest tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano is aboard for three performances.

Although Sherman can write challenging tunes (“Modal Blues,” for example), the emphasis on the playing is a graceful approach rather than a bravura approach. His ballad playing (“Moon River,” Farnham’s “Hope,” “My Princess” and “My One and Only Love”) creates a romantic mood that belongs exclusively to the sound of the vibes, especially as associated with the Jackson tradition.

Magnarelli makes a fine impression throughout with lyricism, warmth and a good tone. Lovano is, well, Lovano–always right for the occasion, whether it’s “Moon River” or the boppish “Modal Blues.” Farnham, restricted mostly to a supporting role, delivers solid solo goods on “Ella Bella.”