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Sherman Irby & Momentum: Cerulean Canvas (Black Warrior)

Review of new album from veteran alto saxophonist

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Cover of Sherman Irby album Cerulean Canvas
Cover of Sherman Irby album Cerulean Canvas

Alto saxophonist Sherman Irby, a fluent improviser and ardent carrier of the jazz-tradition torch, toasts his bandmates, favorite saxophonists and other influences with the first recording to feature his regular working group, Momentum. The quintet, with trombonist and fellow JLCO member Vincent Gardner, pianist Eric Reed, bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Willie Jones III, makes an impressive debut with Cerulean Canvas.

Irby’s bright but warm sound is in full flight on “John Bishop Blues,” which he opens with an extended solo introduction before being joined by Cannon’s walking bass, then the rest of the rhythm section and, later, his JLCO boss Wynton Marsalis on trumpet; the tune’s title references the founder of Dreamland, a widely beloved barbecue joint in the saxophonist’s hometown of Tuscaloosa, Ala. Marsalis also stops by on “SYBAD,” a bouncy swinger saluting the late JLCO baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley.

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