Daryl Sherman – Mini Interview

Vocalist/Pianist Daryl Sherman is in Japan playing nightly at the Tableaux Lounge in Daikanyama through May 30th.

1. Where are you from and how did you first get into jazz/music?
I was born in Woonsocket, R.I. (a predominently French Canadian textile mill area) but my parents were both born in NYC. My dad was a jazz trombonist who played in some big bands before marriage and then mostly  on weekends in restaurant/supper club type places where people listened and danced. He brought me up on standards, classic jazz songs and musicians. I started singing before I could talk and studying piano at around age 7. Although I had the usual method books and classical pieces, my teacher and my dad also gave me pop songs and taught me how to “fake”…form chords to accompany melody line or my singing.
On my 13th birthday I was allowed to attend his gig and sit in with the band.

2. Why did you choose the piano/vocals and who were your first influences?

Piano was chosen for me by the very fact that we had an old upright in our house and it was a “given” that I would take lessons after a few years of just playing “by ear”. We had more brass instrument recordings than just piano or vocals but I did become familiar first with George Shearing (who my dad met and sat in with in UK during the War) and Cy Coleman (better known for songwriting) but a great jazz pianist who had trio recordings. My dad played with him on a gig in the Catskills NY …where he met my mom, who was a waitress.

I heard Ella a lot and was encouraged to scat and phrase like her. Also my father’s occasional band singer was Jean McKenna – sister of Dave McKenna, one of the most revered internationally known piano jazz stylists. Our “home town hero”. Jean was my first model as “live stand-up singer” and she made demo recordings with Dave McKenna which I would wear out listening to.
When I moved to Manhattan soon after college – the world of jazz just opened up to me and now it seems like a storybook fantasy. I got to see and hear Sarah Vaughan, Ella, Carmen, Mel Torme and a steady diet of great jazz musicians who played at Michael’s Pub…like Red Norvo, Benny Carter even Joe Venuti. I also had regular inspiration from  Blossom Dearie, Bobby Short, Marian McPartland, Barbara Carroll and one of my most influential singing mentors, Sylvia Syms.
3. How did you first come to Japan and what were your impressions of the jazz scene here?
I heard from a colleague who had played Tableaux Lounge a couple of times that they were looking for someone from New York for a 3 month stint. In my entire career I’d never been away from Manhattan for more than a month. Offers like this in the past had always been daunting but suddenly at this particular time of my life I decided I’d better take this great opportunity to experience Japan  before I got too nudgy to sit on a plane that long!
Unfortunately because of my schedule I did not get to hear that many other musicians. However I’d say that there certainly are lots of great players ..I’ve heard terrific pianists playing for singers and I had fun attending the Shinjuku Spring Classic Jazz fest. There does not seem to be a huge trad jazz community here so that was fun to behold. I went to Blue note twice…once for John Pizzarelli and just recently Helen Merrill. I find it interesting that the shows start so early there. Also that despite how expensive it is with cover charge and food/drink…the place fills up. I guess that’s something to be happy about (unless you want to go and don’t have the dough).

4.What are your current and upcoming projects?
I’ve just done two separate concerts  of Billie Holiday songs and then Blossom Dearie material for birthday tributes here. I plan to incorporate the material into upcoming show at Kitano Jazz  in Manhattan and subsequent recording. I’m also returning to New Orleans this summer for annual Satchmo fest where I first met Japan’s own “Satchmo” Yoshio Toyama. He and his wife Keiko have been extremely supportive and hospitable to me here in Tokyo. They’ve invited me a few times to “sit in” with their group the Dixie Saints and just last week Toyama -san was my special guest at Tableaux. Keiko brought her banjo and also played with us. It was great fun.

5. Three favorite albums

Bill Evans/Tony Bennett (both volumes)
Joe Williams “Here’s To Life”
Mildred Bailey Mosaic Box Set
Dave McKenna/anything


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Mr. OK Jazz is a 20+ year resident of Japan and spends all his free time wandering the Kanto area looking for jazz cafes, bars, clubs and record stores. For two years he hosted the OK Jazz radio show on InterFM Radio, currently the OK Jazz podcast. You can reach him at *protected email*