Cerulean Canvas
Review by Willard Manus

CERULEAN CANVAS is Sherman Irby’s eighth album as a leader and fifth for Black Warrior Records–and it may be his best. The longtime member of Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, reedman Irby, aided by his band Momentum, does remarkable work on CERULEAN CANVAS, playing both standards and originals with finesse and fire.

Irby’s alto sax leads the way on ten tracks, beginning with his composition “Racine,” a swinging tune on which he teams up with trombonist Vincent Gardner and bassist Gerald Cannon to make a powerful statement. Another original, “Blues for Poppa Reed” (pianist Eric Reed’s father), follows, with lots more compelling jazz to come, including intriguing interpretations of Mulgrew Miller’s “From Day to Day,” Wayne Shorter’s “Contemplation” and Stevie Wonder’s “Smile Please.”

CERULEAN CANVAS reaches the heights when Irby’s boss, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, joins the band as a special guest on “John Bishop Blues” (dedicated to a famous BBQ chef in Irby’s hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama) and “Sybad” (an homage to the late Joe Temperly, a beloved member of the Lincoln Center orchestra).

The synergy between Irby and Marsalis is strong, two jazz masters teaming up to make some memorable music. (Blackwarriorrecords.com)