Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Interviews with Jazz Greats

Several of the composers of our latest Jazz Songbook Series, Vol.2 have been interviewed on jazz radio. Interesting to hear everyone's stories, and more to come. Series url is https://www.shermusic.com/jazz-songbook-series-2.php

Jazz Guitarist and Author, Barry Finnerty

Veteran Jazz Improviser and Steel Band Composer, Andy Narell

LA-based Veteran Jazz Drummer, Vocalist, Songwriter & Educator, Dave Tull




Friday, May 13, 2022

"Jazz Scores and Analysis, Vol.2" is out!

Rick Lawn has been working for several years to finish the second volume of his masterpiece, "Jazz Scores and Analysis" and it's finally up on our website for sale, both the physical book and digital downloads - https://www.shermusic.com/9780991077366.php. This second volume features jazz compositions with strings as part of the ensemble and ten great composers are included - Vince Mendoza, Oliver Nelson, Eddie Sauter, Chris Potter, etc. I'll let its webpage speak for itself but my own impression is that Rick is a unique author - his work is so well-thought out and comprehensive, his writing is erudite but not at all stuffy and he has a real grasp of the whole flow of jazz composition through the years. If you have any interest in the subject, don't miss this 438 page labor of love!

Friday, April 29, 2022

More great Jazz Songbooks!

About a year ago Andy Narell approached me and asked if I was going to do anymore jazz songbooks. I hadn't planned on it but I love Andy's music and so I said, "Sure, why not?" So I started asking other great composers and the results can be seen at https://www.shermusic.com/jazz-songbook-series-2.php. One of the great moments in this process was when a package arrived from Benny Golson's publisher with copies of his original lead sheets, all yellowed and looking just like lead sheets used to look when I first started playing music 50+ years ago. It was like Christmas in February! And Benny's tunes, in particular, have been a ball to play with my various musical compatriots. Then I asked Enrico Pieranunzi and he was delighted to have a songbook of his compositions too. The same with Denny Zeitlin, Randy Brecker, Steve Khan, Larry Dunlap, Barry Finnerty and Doug Morton. I'm especially happy to put out The Dave Tull Songbook because Dave is the most soulful and also the funniest singer/songwriter in jazz, to my professional ears. Check out the sample songs on his webpage and I bet you'll agree. My great appreciation goes out to Matt Heister for helping with the graphics on this project and also my webmaster, Bob Afifi, who tirelessly did all the 'behind the scenes' work to get these songbooks up and running.

I just turned 75 and one would think that I should be at Shady Acres contemplating nature, but projects keep coming to me and I feel obligated to keep doing my part in promoting good music. Like Lot in the Bible, I think the Good Lord is only letting this show go on because, at any point, there are ten good tunes being played on the planet. So keep the music flowing!

Saturday, January 29, 2022

In Memorium - Mark Levine

Our friend and colleague, the great Mark Levine, passed away on Thursday, January 27, 2022 at the age of 83. May he rest in Peace and may all the thousands of people whose lives have been uplifted by his music and his unparalleled books say a word of thanks to this Giant of Jazz as he enters the Big Band in the Sky. We'll miss him... 

Please leave your condolences or reminiscences here. We'd love to hear from you all - Chuck Sher



Sunday, January 23, 2022

New Books from Sher Music Co.

Sher Music fans - We had some trouble with our blog a year or so ago and stopped posting but that seems to have been resolved now so let me catch you up on the new books we've put out since then.

1. "Syncopation Companion" by Bryan Bowman - Bryan is a Bay Area drummer and bandleader and he approached me in 2020 to see if I wanted to publish his book, which expands the possibilities of Ted Reed's classic "Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer." I'll refer you to its webpage for more detail, including a glowing endorsement from Peter Erskine - https://www.shermusic.com/9780997661781.php. All I want to add is that I've had the great pleasure of playing with Bryan on a bunch of COVID-safe outdoor gigs here in Petaluma and he is always swinging - so his method works! And a super-nice guy to boot!

 2. "Drum Chart Supplement for the Real Easy Book 1" by Alan Hall - Another great drummer and former Bay Area musician, Alan Hall wrote drum charts for every song in the first Real Easy Book in this cool publication. In addition, there is very cogent instruction for beginning drummers on how to read drum notation, basic styles of contemporary drumming and advice on how to be a good team player. The webpage is here - https://www.shermusic.com/9780991077397.php, including videos of Alan performing each chart in both real time and slowed down.

3. "Contemporary Latin Jazz Guitar" by Neff Irizarry - Neff is a talented Finnish guitarist who is included in The European Real Book. He sent me a manscript last year on Latin jazz guitar playing that was super informative and well-organized, going from the basic rhythms of Afro-Cuban music and how they relate to playing guitar in a Latin rhythm section, all the way up to a 6-page transcription of a great Steve Khan solo! There are about 100 shorter transcriptions of guitarists from all eras of Latin music with analysis of why they sound as good as they do. A really well-done and comprehensive book that we are proud to publish - https://www.shermusic.com/9780997661798.php. (Comes with multiple videos of Neff demonstrating many of the exercises.)

4. "The Jazz Saxophone Book" by Tim Armacost - Tim is a leading voice in the New York jazz scene and quite a player. He approached me with an idea for a book on melodic soloing and I said, "Sure, but how about expanding it to include everything a person would need to be an accomplish sax player, like Mark Levine did in his "The Jazz Piano Book." He took on that challenge and the result is magnificent - a super helpful book for any improviser, really. Check it out at https://www.shermusic.com/9780991077380.php. Endorsed by Jerry Bergonzi, Bob Mintzer, George Garzone, Bob Sheppard, Jamey Aebersold, Steve Wilson, Walt Weiskopf, and his bandmate David Berkman.

Coming up - a) "Jazz Scores and Analysis, Vol.2: Strings and Things" by Rick Lawn and b) more great "Jazz Songbooks" from people like Andy Narell, Randy Brecker, Denny Zeitlin, Steve Khan, Duke Pearson, etc. Be well, stay safe and keep it swinging! - Chuck

Anatomy of a Music Publisher: Sher Music

Folks - here is a cool interview Debbie Burke did with me on her jazz blog. Enjoy! - Chuck

Anatomy of a Music Publisher: Sher Music

Chuck Sher

Instruction from the masters and the icons of jazz is one genre of literature that always has an eager audience. Whether it’s learning how to improvise, a new take on well-loved chestnuts or how to master the key changes, musicians need their fingers and their ears to be in tip-top shape.

How does a music publisher today keep up with what professional musicians and students hanker for as they develop their art? Chuck Sher of Sher Music Company has some answers.

When did you start the business and why?

I started Sher Music Co. in 1979 because I got serious tendonitis and couldn’t play bass for over a year. During that downtime, I collected all the notes I had taken while teaching and put them together to create my first book, “The Improvisor’s Bass Method.” It was very well-received and at that point, I officially became a music book publisher. Totally accidental (and yet foreordained in some way, I feel).

I still consider myself a musician first and a publisher second. This fact has been the bedrock of our “mission statement” here at Sher Music Co., that our books are created by musicians, for musicians, and are designed to be the best possible books on their given subject. Our endorsements from dozens and dozens of the best jazz musicians ever – including Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Ron Carter, Maria Schneider, Esperanza Spalding, etc. – corroborate that claim.

How has your focus on books changed through the years if at all; instruction and technique, composition, theory, history, etc.?

From the beginning, we published both fake books and instructional books. But now we are only publishing method books for the most part. In terms of content, the major change happened in the ’90s because I got bitten by the Latin music bug and so we published over a dozen books on that fascinating music, including the only professional-level collection of Latin music compositions, “The Latin Real Book.”

Talk about fake books. What trends have you seen here?

We started out publishing big fake books but it has been harder to justify the expense of doing that when people can get any song they want either for a few dollars or free (i.e. illegally) online. I find this very sad because the charts in our fake books can help create more beautiful music than the “white bread” charts available in most of the other fake books or lead sheets out there. In addition, our fake books are historically accurate. For just one of hundreds of examples, see Miles’ classic arrangement of “‘Round Midnight” in the Standards Real Book, something that is not available anywhere else. I’ve been blessed with having two of the world’s greatest music transcribers work for us: Sky Evergreen, who passed away in the ’90s, and since then, Larry Dunlap. I couldn’t have put out our fake books without them and the jazz world owes them both a big debt of gratitude. In any case, at this point the only charts we are publishing are in our “Jazz Songbook” series of digital-only books at www.shermusic.com, featuring one composer at a time, e.g. Kenny Barron, Alan Pasqua, Steve Swallow, etc.

What have you learned about your consumer, the musician or hobbyist or just music lover, through the years in what they want to learn?

I’m not sure what they want to learn has changed, only how they have grown up getting that knowledge. The obvious thing is that one can learn “licks,” technique, etc. on any subject on YouTube. I don’t discount the immediate value of that, but there’s a depth of knowledge that one can only get from a well-thought-out book. Superficial knowledge might very well result in superficial playing, wouldn’t you think?

What goes into your decision of whether or not to carry a book? Do you offer editing and marketing to authors? Talk about the process of acquiring a title and what you do to publish it.

I am the publisher of all the books carried at shermusic.com and I have also written or co-written a half-dozen of those books myself. My decision to publish a book is almost always based on what I consider to be its long-term musical value. I am a good editor and I have had some input in most of our method books as well as selecting almost all the songs in our fake books. I also do all the marketing from here (with invaluable assistance from my webmaster, Bob Afifi), but some of our authors are also helping with the social media aspect of getting their books out into the world.

The authors of most of my instructional books sent me their manuscripts initially and are glad to have the “Sher Music Seal of Approval” on their work. Definitely a mutually beneficial relationship. They also get paid more than the standard royalties, another fact of which I am proud.

The process of publishing a book is a long one, too much to go into a lot of detail here. But first I often help the author get their ideas into presentable form, both graphically and/or content-wise. Once that is done, I take the manuscript, have it proofread (often by several people whose opinions I value), then re-do the layout as a result, then send it to our printer and proofread it again before it goes to press. Finally, we do a digital PDF version, which requires more graphics expertise, then the book is ready to be released. Publicity is the next step and that is an expensive and ever-evolving task, as the media world keeps changing. Altogether, in order to be born, each book requires a lot of blood, sweat, tears, persistence and love for the music, and I am both proud and honored to have put out the most highly-respected collection of jazz and Latin music books on the market.

How do authors learn about you and how do music lovers/buyers learn about you?

Sher Music Co. has been an established jazz and then Latin music book publisher for over 40 years, so our reputation precedes us. How to get the attention of the younger generation of musicians is a challenge and we learn more about that with every book. We are now reaching out to bloggers and podcasters, as well as Facebook and the traditional print media.

Are you a musician, and if so, what do you play?

I’ve played bass since the ’60s. First upright bass and then electric bass after I recovered from tendonitis, with the help of DMSO, by the way (but do not use it without researching the safety precautions necessary). I toured with jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks and his family for a year and a half in the ’70s. That was a ball, getting to play with all the musicians that would come and sit in with Jon: Al Jarreau, Joe Williams, George Duke, Benny Carter, etc. Then I played for years with the late bebop saxophonist Vince Wallace and drummer Michael Aragon, as well as a hundred other players here in the Bay Area over the years. This past year I organized and fronted a weekly COVID-safe outdoor series of concerts here in Petaluma, CA with the best Bay Area musicians I could find like Art Khu, Randy Vincent, Kendrick Freeman, Bryan Bowman, Michael Aragon, Doug Morton, Bob Afifi, Ken Cook, etc. What a ball that was, and will be again once the weather permits. 

What words of encouragement would you give to the novice who is overwhelmed with all the literature available?

I would say pick educational material that has stood the test of time, like Mark Levine’s “The Jazz Theory Book” or look for books that have been endorsed by great musicians, like virtually all Sher Music books have been. I also have a free tutorial of ideas for learning to solo on standard tunes on our home page. Practicing can be a tremendous amount of fun, so I would say keep at it, step-by-step, and enjoy the process of watching yourself become a more accomplished musician.

Talk about Tim’s new book and why you have a connection with it?

Tim Armacost is the saxophone player in the New York Standards Quartet, led by another author of ours, NY pianist David Berkman. They put out a series of records that are state-of-the-art post-bop, so I was very familiar with Tim’s playing. I remember hearing him play on their arrangement of “Soul Eyes” and thinking, “That is an almost perfect example of a great contemporary jazz solo.” (At my suggestion, a transcription of that solo can be found at the end of Tim’s “The Jazz Saxophone Book.”) Anyway, Tim approached me with a proposal to write a book on creating melodic solos. My response was, “Sure, but how about expanding it to cover everything a saxophonist needs to know to be an accomplished jazz player, like Mark Levine did with his “Jazz Piano Book”? Tim took up the challenge and created a masterpiece, I believe – endorsed by Jerry Bergonzi, Bob Minzter, Bob Sheppard, George Garzone, etc. You can buy it on our website at https://www.shermusic.com/9780991077380.php.

Other comments?

As the world gets crazier by the day, it seems, there are only a few things that give me solace and inspiration to have my life be a net plus for the world. One of them is love, specifically for my wife Sueann, our two kids, and my close friends. And the other is the inexhaustible beauty of music. Any universe that could end up with Bill Evans and John Coltrane has to have been done with Purpose and Meaning behind it, because it is too cool to be an accident, know what I mean? I’ve actually written some decent poems, I believe, and paired them with great recorded music that expresses these sentiments better than I can do in prose. You can find those (no charge) at https://www.shermusic.com/inner-world-books/from-the-inner-world/index.html. Also check out a related CD project on our website, “Poetry+Jazz: A Magical Marriage.” Free samples are available at https://www.shermusic.com/1883217822.php. High art, if you ask me. Finally, I have a jazz show on KRCB – public radio here in Sonoma Co. – on the first Saturday of each month from 7 to 11 pm. And above all else, keep it swinging!

Photos courtesy of/with permission from Chuck Sher.

(c) 2022 Debbie Burke

Visit https://bit.ly/DebbieBurkeAmazon for Debbie Burke’s books on jazz.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

"The Rhythm Changes Guide" now available

In my role as a pubic radio jazz host (KRCB-FM, the first Saturday of each month, 7-11 pm Pacific time), I scour the internet for hip new jazz releases. A few years ago I ran into one of the best CDs I've heard of cutting-edge jazz from Europe entitled, "Evocation" by a one-time ensemble called Generations Unit 2012. A great record. So when the saxophonist on that CD, Lukas Gabric, got in touch and said he had written a book on rhythm changes that he wanted us to publish, I was happy to take a look. Lukas is a saxophone instructor for the Juillard School's MAP program and a great player in his own right, so that's a good foundation, I thought. The manuscript went back and forth between us a half dozen times and the end result is the most comprehensive book ever published on the different approaches one could take to get a handle on this slippery song form. Chuck says, check it out. https://www.shermusic.com/9780997661767.php

Finally, I would like to wish all of us on this beleaguered planet the best of luck getting though the pandemic and rebuilding a sense of normalcy, which has been sorely tested here in the US these last four years. The planet needs us - who else is going to play "Confirmation"? Not the chipmunks.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

"The Jazz Songbook Series" is released!

Listening to Alan Pasqua play at the JEN convention this last January (that seems like a lifetime ago!), the idea came to me, "Alan's music is so beautiful. I should put out a book of his best tunes." Then, bingo!, ten months later we are releasing not only 20 of Alan's best songs but similar books for Tom Harrell, Carla Bley, Kenny Barron, Ralph Towner, Steve Swallow, Kenny Werner, Horace Silver, Oscar Hernandez (Ruben Blades musical director for many years) and Wayne Wallace (also a superb Latin Jazz composer and arranger).

Unlike our earlier fake books, these charts are all direct from the composers' own lead sheets (except for Horace Silver, no longer living). This gives the books some real historical interest, in addition to just being able to play these great pieces of jazz writing. In some cases, the charts had to be re-copied for legibility reasons, but the content is the same.

Of course, a project of this magnitude required many hands to bring it to fruition. My deep thanks to Sueann Bettison Sher, Annalisa Sher and Linda Larsen for the beautiful cover art work; Bob Afifi, my webmaster, for putting all the pieces together; Larry Dunlap for his great editing and music engraving skills; Attila Nagy and Chris Goodmiller for the additional graphics work; and, last but not least, all the composers for allowing me the privilege of presenting their beautiful compositions to musicians world-wide. Thanks to one and all---and also to you, Sher Music supporters, for being the essential last link in the chain. Be well, stay safe and enjoy these labors of love! - Chuck Sher


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

"Introduction to Jazz Piano" is out!

We have just released Jeb Patton's third book for Sher Music, "Introduction to Jazz Piano: A Deep Dive." I asked Jeb if he thought he could write a book that explains all the things a person would need to know in order to successfully use Mark Levine's "The Jazz Piano Book." What he came up with was quite different than I expected. Instead of a simpler version of Mark's book, Jeb has created a deep tutorial on how to immerse yourself in the jazz language so that you come out being a fully functional jazz pianist. This book is not designed for the casual hobbyist but rather for someone who is willing to put in some quality time in order to become a real jazz player. The initial response to its release indicates that, indeed, people are ready and willing to do just that. In these crazy times, more and better music is a worthy goal, I believe and I think Jeb's book will help people do just that. Chuck says check it out - https://www.shermusic.com/9780997661750.php - and stay safe out there!