by Willard Manus
CERULEAN CANVAS is Sherman Irbys eighth album as a leader and fifth for Black Warrior Recordsand 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.
Irbys 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 Reeds father), follows, with lots more compelling jazz to come, including intriguing interpretations of Mulgrew Millers From Day to Day, Wayne Shorters Contemplation and Stevie Wonders Smile Please.
CERULEAN CANVAS reaches the heights when Irbys boss, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, joins the band as a special guest on John Bishop Blues (dedicated to a famous BBQ chef in Irbys 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)