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BWW Interview: Evan Sherman of EVAN SHERMAN BIG BAND at Bickford Theater At The Morris Museum

BWW Interview: Evan Sherman of EVAN SHERMAN BIG BAND at Bickford Theater At The Morris Museum
Evan Sherman
Photo Credit: Michael Weintrob

Hey Evan! Thanks for taking some time out to answer some few questions. I know everyone is buzzing about your upcoming show. One of my local friends mentioned attending your show before she even knew I was interviewing you! So exciting! Let's dive right in! What can the audience expect from your upcoming shows?

Part of the fun is you never know what will happen!

The big band has grown into a one-of-a-kind experience from working in creatively fertile environments over the past 5 years. The 16-piece collective is always filled with an exciting mix of rising stars and established veterans. Some nights we have young musicians fresh out of high school, playing in the sax section next to masters like Jerry Dodgion (who's played with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Billie Holiday to Herbie Hancock). With over 120 charts in the book, we pick from a vast repertoire. Depending on the night, we might play original arrangements of Monteverdi, Tchaikovsky, Scott Joplin, Stevie Wonder, or Earth Wind & Fire, in addition to our extensive classic jazz library of Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Eckstine, Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, Benny Goodman, Roy Hargrove and many more.
Tell us about your background. When did you catch the musical bug?
As early as I can remember, I was banging on pots/pans, desks at school and before that, my diaper - always trying to make a beat. At 4 years old, I used to run around impersonating the Rolling Stones after watching a live concert from a VHS tape. My parents and older brother played guitar, bass, piano, so I must have thought - the family needs a drummer!
Throughout elementary school, I was influenced by my family's love of classic rock and when i was five years old they took me to MSG to see Billy Joel and a couple years later to see the Rolling Stones for the first of a few times. It took me a while to open up to jazz. My dad used to say "don't misbehave or I'll turn on the jazz radio station!". I was like many close-minded people who think jazz is "not cool."
Luckily, I grew out of that! When I was 9, I saw one of my earliest drum idols, Mr. Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones play jazz at the Blue Note in NYC. At 11, I started to become further attracted to jazz after hearing "Sing Sing Sing'" (Gene Krupa/Benny Goodman) and "Moanin'" (Art Blakey). I attended a jazz camp and grew obsessed - initially thinking, "wow, this opens up way more possibilities than just playing rock beats!" By the time I was thirteen years old, I knew I wanted to be a professional jazz musician.
Has Big Band always been your primary focus?
I play in groups of all sizes: trios, quintets, septets, and have always had a deep love for big bands, the "symphony orchestra" of jazz. When I was 16 years old, I had the pleasure of playing with the GRAMMY Jazz Ensemble Big Band, a group of high school "all-stars" selected from all over the U.S. led by the great educator and drummer Mr. Justin DiCioccio. Around this time, I began following the master drummer, Mr. Lewis Nash around NYC when he would be playing with the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band and Jimmy Heath Big Band and it became my dream to get to play in those groups if Lewis was ever busy or unable to make a gig. At age 18, I played my first international gig in Russia with the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band and then at 19, with Jimmy Heath's and Ron Carter's Big Band.
In 2014, I was a 21-year-old student at Manhattan School of Music and started my own big band to play the late-night dance parties at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club. At this time, my peers and I were very inexperienced but eager to learn more about playing dance music from the "Swing Era". Our first big band rehearsal, the band sounded comically poor. As we tried to get through a seemingly simple Fletcher Henderson arrangement, my good friend & master tenor saxophonist Tivon was squeaking out the clarinet part and our guitarist, Gabe was cracking up at how the best of NYC's jazz musicians sounded like a middle school band!
Over the past 5 years, leading a 16-piece big band has been an amazing journey! It has not been easy to develop such a large band in NYC and very unlikely to have all the same people in the band for each gig. While the challenges and frustrations are never-ending, I always feel rewarded with the opportunity to keep the big band going. I am constantly inspired to come up with new arrangements to feature the individuals in the band or someone I've just met. I love putting people together and envisioning the possibilities!
In 2016, at the Caramoor Jazz Festival we premiered a jazz play "A Story of Patience", featuring each individual in the big band as a character in an original narrative.
Can you share with us one of your favorite musical memories?
Over the past few years my longtime hero and mentor, the late Mr. Roy Hargrove would come sit in with my big band when he wasn't traveling. He was so supportive and encouraged so many young musicians with pure love and guidance. I lived another dream when I got to tour with Roy's quintet in Europe in April 2018. One of the most memorable gigs was in Paris at New Morning - the block where he wrote and premiered "Strasbourg/St. Denis", When we played that club, you could feel the audience expressing the deepest appreciation for Roy which I had never felt anywhere else! This of course, made the music super-charged with love.
Anything else we should know?
I am excited to bring my 16-piece big band to Morris Museum on July 11 in Morristown, NJ - not far from where I grew up. We've spent the past 5 years developing, playing all over NYC at Dizzy's Club and other venues, as well as a trip to Australia. The personnel is filled with the most exciting talents (young and old) in the world that are mostly based in NYC. It will be a rare opportunity to see them all together in NJ and before most people's bedtimes!
Evan Sherman Big Band
Thursday, July 11th, 2019 @ 7:30 PM
Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ
Evan Sherman, Drums & Music Director
Bruce Williams, Alto Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet
Zoe Obadia, Alto Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet
Peter Anderson, Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet
Ruben Fox, Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet
Adrian Condis, Baritone Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet
Noah Halpern, Trumpet
Bruce Harris, Trumpet
James Zollar, Trumpet, Vocals
Frank Lacy, Trombone, Vocals
Mariel Bildsten, Trombone
Corey Wilcox, Trombone
Sean Mason, Piano
Russell Hall, Bass
& maybe a few guests...
For more information:

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