“When you listen to Sherri’s thoughtful way with a vocal line, or her vibrant sense of swing, or her effortless embodiment of a song’s emotion…a certain starry-eyed enchantment is inevitable.” –Drew Wheeler
Sherri Roberts grew up in Atlanta, Georgia with a family that, while not professionally musical, nevertheless instilled in her a love of song. That love was solidified early on when she heard Perry Como wrap his vocal cords around Irving Berlin’s “It’s a Lovely Day Today.” As her first exposure to swing, it was a watershed moment, and its effect stuck as she became active in choirs and high school musicals. Sherri went on to earn her B.A. in theatre at Antioch College in Ohio, where she was also introduced to jazz studies, as well as early Renaissance choral music and the 20th-century avant-garde.
Post-graduation, Sherri relocated to San Francisco, becoming involved in theatre performance and management, while continuing to develop her singing and growing interest in jazz. At some point, she recognized that exploring the rich emotional life of a character through story can be done far more economically in a four-minute song than a two-hour play; that a well-written song is like a drama in miniature, distilled to its musical essence; and that singing, like acting, offers the means to externalize the deeper, internal self. She walked away from theatre and onto the bandstand, and hasn’t looked back since.
Listen a little
Drawing from her broad training and experience, Sherri blurs the line between cabaret and jazz singing. She performs the tunes of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley in modern jazz settings, while her great affinity for Brazilian music and the lyricized compositions of more contemporary artists such as Dave Brubeck, Marian McPartland, and Bill Evans keeps her song choices personal and exciting. She takes her innate feeling for melody and rhythm and couples it with an attraction for less-traveled paths. Her velvet voice, laid-back phrasing, impeccable diction, and understated delivery veil an uncommon depth of feeling, and pay homage to the cool jazz pedigree of June Christy, Chet Baker, and Helen Merrill. As Kirk Silsbee of the Los Angeles City Beat so rightly puts it, “She’s a breath of fresh air…pure and unaffected.”
Sherri has four recordings as leader and her fifth, Anybody’s Spring, a collection of both familiar and rare songs about springtime accompanied by a bi-coastal rhythm section, will be released in March of 2017. This newest recording is preceded by 2013’s Lovely Days (a duo session showcasing the brilliant but little-documented pianist Bliss Rodriguez) and three collaborations with renowned bassist Harvie S: The Sky Could Send You (2006), Dreamsville (1998), Twilight World (1996). Sherri has also recorded or performed with Phil Woods, Lew Soloff, Mark Soskin, Danny Gottlieb, Chris Potter, Eric Friedlander, Keith Underwood, Joe Le Barbera, John Hart, Vince Cherico, and many other top-flight musicians.
Sherri’s knowledge of modern song imbues her art with a scope rare among jazz singers of today. She is a true scholar of popular music with a deep appreciation for its heritage and cites such diverse influences as Ella Fitzgerald, Carol Sloane, Irene Kral, Chet Baker, and Shirley Horn. She continues to enhance these traditions, even as she upholds them.
Anybody’s Spring: Album Summary
Like the season it describes, there’s something magical about Anybody’s Spring, Bay Area vocalist Sherri Roberts’s fifth leader date. From the first strains of its title cut, listeners are treated to a melodious thaw, for hers is a voice that will indeed melt your heart. “This is one of the most natural recordings I’ve ever done,” says Sherri. “Structured but not overly arranged, it’s a natural outgrowth of who I am as an artist.” These songs reap the benefits of personal experience, as Sherri has sung them in spring-themed performances almost every year for the past two decades, and from that repertoire has chosen 12 favorites. Swinging from the jazz compositions of Clifford Brown and Tadd Dameron to the standard and not-so-standard fare of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Hoagy Carmichael, and Blossom Dearie favorite Bob Haymes, the set list is a spring lover’s dream come true.
It’s Anybody’s Spring, a hidden gem from the classic 1946 Bob Hope/Bing Crosby film, Road to Utopia, establishes the album’s holistic tone. Here the verdant colors of Sherri’s voice—her balance of depth and shine, the comforting embrace of her vibrato—are immediately evident. All this gorgeousness finds ideal cushioning in the support of her bandmates: pianist David Udolf, bassist Harvie S, drummer Akira Tana, and guitarist Sheryl Bailey. The latter takes the album’s first solo, moving with ease over a tessellated rhythm section, before David and Harvie tender lushness and agility by turns, all while Akira keeps everything in the pocket. Such democratic consistency of rapport is key to this album’s free and relaxed atmosphere. Nothing is overwrought here.
What distinguishes Anybody’s Spring from Sherri’s previous efforts is its narrative acumen and cohesion: “I want people to go through a journey of emotions, some of which are euphoric and others of which are devastating—to feel the full scope of what this season does to us at every level.” In light of this, Sherri leaves no facet of spring untouched: its loves (They Say It’s Spring, While We’re Young), lamentations (Now At Last, One Morning In May), and loveliness (Joy Spring, Double Rainbow) are fair game for her verbal play. Through it all, she emerges like the warm soul that she is, fortifying listeners against the whip of any lingering winter winds.
Highlights abound at every turn. Among them is Spring, Sprang, Sprung, a delightful song in the vein of “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads,” and of which Sherri’s winged delivery makes it a quintessential expression of the album’s theme. Whether drawing near to classics like Lady Bird and It Might As Well Be Spring or the more obscure fare of After All It’s Spring (from the same songwriting duo that brought us “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”), a heartfelt effervescence shines through. And in ballads like Spring Isn’t Everything, Sherri shows us that true love always begins with yourself.
Like a masterfully blended perfume, Anybody’s Spring starts with a citrusy opening and moves through floral accords to a muskier base, and it’s one you’ll want to apply to the pulse points of your musical appreciation all year round.
Anybody’s Spring is scheduled to blossom just after the vernal equinox on March 24, 2017.
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