“She’s sophisticated she’s straightforward and she can swing!” - Marian McPartland
A sparkling mainstay of Manhattan nightlife, singer/pianist Daryl Sherman is equally at home in the world of jazz and cabaret. Internationally acclaimed for a stellar 14-year run at the Waldorf=Astoria, she played Cole Porter's Steinway and has headlined the annual Cole Porter Festival in his hometown - Peru, Indiana. Her latest CD, Mississippi Belle celebrates Porter in a New Orleans setting. Daryl's been a favorite at the Algonquin Oak Room -touted-"someone who fits the room like Derek Jeter fits the Yankees" (Village Voice) plus Feinstein's at the Regency, Rose Hall with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Dizzy's Coca Cola and 59E59 Theaters with Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks. From her arrival in New York with stints at Sinatra hangouts like Jilly's, Eddie Condon's , Michael's Pub, Knickerbokcer, Iridium or Shangahi Jazz, there's hardly a jazz joint, supper club or hotel Daryl has missed. Sherman's many recordings are in regular national rotation on Cable TV's Music Choice and Sirius/XM Radio, BBC Radio and Jazz FM Berlin. Cited MAC "Best Major Recording" for her Johnny Mercer Centennial CD - a track was used in a Mercer documentary produced by Clint Eastwood. A frequent guest on Marian McPartland's NPR Piano Jazz, Sherman was also included on BBC Radio's Johnny Mercer Tribute. She's been Artistic Director for the 92nd St Y's Lyrics & Lyricists tribute to Johnny Burke- also hosting, scripting and performing with an all-star jazz cast. Her (Arbors) tribute to Richard Rodgers, A Hundred Million Miracles received four stars in Downbeat, and Guess Who's In Town cited The New Yorker '10 Best of 2006'
Daryl Sherman's annual UK tours have included stints in London, Newcastle, Glasgow, Wales, Manchester, Wavendon, Southampton, Norwich and in addition, Berlin and The Netherlands where she conducts master classes. Major jazz festival appearances include JVC in New York and Newport, and the Floating Jazz Festival on the QE2. She's headlined clubs such as the Colony/Palm Beach, Snug Harbor, New Orleans, Nighttown in Cleveland, Hugh's Room in Toronto, Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles and arts centers across the continent from Winnipeg to Fort Lauderdale. In Manhattan, Sherman is a recurring favorite in the "Highlights in Jazz" concert series, St. Peter's Midday Jazz plus the Mabel Mercer Foundation Cabaret Convention, where she was presented the Cabaret Classic Award. Sherman has also guested on NPR's Fresh Air With Terry Gross.
When Artie Shaw formed a new band after his retirement, Sherman was his singer of choice, calling her "a first rate singer -musician". She appeared in 1983 with Shaw leading the band at the gala re-opening of Glen Island Casino and on other tour dates. Her recent appearance at an Artie Shaw centennial tribute concert was highly praised by the New York Times. She has also sung with Germany's WDR Jazz Orchestra, American Jazz Orchestra and the Spokane Jazz Orchestra in tributes to Mildred Bailey and Paul Whiteman. At age five, Daryl began to pick out tunes at the piano and sing along with her trombonist dad, a popular bandleader in her native Woonsocket, R.I. By barely high school age, Sammy Sherman was featuring his daughter on gigs.
Daryl Sherman has performed and recorded with notables including Jay Leonhart, Bucky & John Pizzarelli, Warren Vache, Harry Allen, Dick Hyman, Dave McKenna, Ruby Braff, Houston Person, Bob Dorough, Wycliffe Gordon, Dan Barrett, Howard Alden, Gene Bertoncini, Ken Peplowski, Kenny Davern, John Bunch, Mike Renzi, James Chirillo and Boots Maleson.
“The wonderful singer/pianist Daryl Sherman travels the world with our music. She is indispensable” - Jonathan Schwartz, Sirius/XM Satellite Radio
“Creates moods that turn each song into a miniature painting..delivery ranges from kittenish pounce to soulful passion..manages to send everyone home balanced and happy.” - Rex Reed, New York Observer
“Sherman may be dainty but she could hold her own on a raucous night in the French Quarter. In (her)imaginary imaginary world, Rodgers and Hart are still scribbling furiously, Duke Ellington is on the road again and 52nd Street has plenty of nightlife left.” - Clive Davis - London Times
“My dad was my greatest champion and severest critic.”
Says Benny Carter: “She feels what the composer felt and is true to that in her singing and playing”
Artie Shaw says: “A first-rate singer/musician.”
Selected to sing on three of his own Arbors recordings, Ruby Braff describes Daryl: “An excellent performer -musician with great feeling for everything she sings.”
And Dick Hyman: "All you could ask for! Right-on-the-nose performance...with impeccable style and intonation...(a repertoire) she has mined and made her own."
Pretty heady stuff. But not so unusual when you realize that her father is Sammy Sherman, former jazz trombonist in New York City during the big band era. While raising his family in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, he continued to head, part-time, a trio or quartet. Music was part of the Sherman household, and the road that Daryl was to follow was already paved by Sherman footprints. That is, provided she had the talent to fill those footprints, and she has.
By the time she was five, Daryl was picking out tunes on the keyboard. Even before that, she was singing. She could sing before she could talk, says family legend, and in fact, Daryl herself can remember singing, "On Top of Old 'Mokie," when she was just a tot. "Ever since I can remember, I've been around musicians and encouraged to sing."
Her parents were both native New Yorkers, but Sammy's father's family had moved early on to Rhode Island, where he grew up. After the war, when Sammy was playing a gig in the Catskills, (in a band that included another young musician named Cy Coleman), he met Shirley, a young Hunter College student working as a waitress. A relationship developed, and Sammy and Shirley married and made their home in Rhode Island, raising four children.
Daryl is eldest of the children. She is not the only full-time musician, since her sister, Abbe Morrongiello, plays piano, sings and teaches in Franklin, MA.
"As a kid I was the one who embraced the music of my Dad, which was the standards and jazz. I was the kid who was awakened at two in the morning when my dad would come back from a music job."
At age 6 or so, Daryl began formal lessons, but it was her father who formed her base of musical knowledge. Besides recordings, radio, television, and visiting musicians, there was always a keyboard in the house on which Sammy taught Daryl to form three-note chords. "That was probably the most useful tool I could ever have because it got me to do accompaniments on the piano."
Although she studied classical piano for many years, Daryl's love, like her dad's, was jazz and the standards. She loved finding interesting songs to play, popular songs, show tunes. Early favorite show scores included Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, particularly, The King and I, the first Broadway show she saw and still a favorite.
"I still cry when the king dies."
Daryl recalls studying the subscription music series, "Tune Dex," that featured pop songs and standards with a melody line written out and chord symbols. Later she would pour through "fake books" for new songs and arrangements to learn.
As she grew older, her father let her come to the clubs and listen to his group, usually made up of guitar, trombone, drums, and piano or accordian. They played light jazz and dance sets.
"It was really there that I got my education and love for that kind of music."
Because Daryl's musicianship was unusually sharp, her father finally began featuring her singing on his local engagements,
"I think the first thing I sang when my dad actually let me sit in with the band was, 'Over the Rainbow.' I was about twelve."
While recognizing and encouraging his daughter's talent, Sammy was also a stern taskmaster. He urged Daryl to learn her music well and not approach it flippantly. He stressed the musical terms and discussed phrasing.
When she entered high school, Daryl was active in everything musical, including the band and theater, and outside of school, she got jobs playing at events like New Years Eve parties.
"One of my first gigs was in a neighborhood restaurant/bar, where they had some kind of a top-40 band. The little piano sat above the bar. My job was to play when the band took a break. I played things like, 'Misty,' Beatles songs, show tunes. I got $20 for that."
Moving from Woonsocket to the University of Rhode Island, she majored in Spanish, but always knew she would have a musical career. She took as many music courses as possible, performing in the chorus and jazz band and studying piano.
"Playing the piano was a tool to accompany myself singing."
She listened to jazz musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and another Rhode Island pianist, Dave McKenna. All influenced her musical tastes, but when she heard Mildred Bailey's smooth easy style, she found a favorite.
"I have a jazz feel to what I do, but I just love songs that are melodic. I love Julie Andrews, Doris Day, as well as Lady Day, Rosemary Clooney, and Joe Williams.. I love music from all over the spectrum."
But admittedly, Daryl's approach to music is more improvisational and instrumental than a cabaret singer's treatment would be. As for her father, to whom she remains close,
"My dad's tastes were more modern and contemporary than mine. I'm more into someone like Jack Teagarden, who goes back a couple of generations." -Elizabeth Ahlfors
"New York was a great place to start."
In 1974, Daryl was off to start her career in New York. She met up with other musicians, including Dave McKenna, the jazz pianist from her hometown. One of her first jobs was at Jilly's, a West 52nd Street nightclub owned by Frank Sinatra's pal, which offered a jazz-influenced trio until almost dawn.
At one point, while she was playing at Jilly's, Daryl's parents came down from Rhode Island to visit. It was Daryl's night off, but she wanted to take them to see the club. Upon arriving, however, they saw a sign saying that Jilly's was closed for a private party. Daryl, disappointed, apologized to her parents. Suddenly the door opened and owner Jilly came out.
"Daryl? I thought I heard your voice." Jilly invited them inside to the private party, and she met the guest of honor -- "Old Blue Eyes" himself.
Jimmy Weston's was another supper club that featured back-to-back jazz trios. "Someone had suggested Jimmy Weston's, and I just walked in. I met great musicians there, Dorothy Donegan, Hazel Scott."
Michael's Pub was yet another jazz spot where Daryl met other musicians, and here she found herself sitting in with talents like Red Norvo, Bobby Hackett, Hank Jones, Milt Hinton. She came to know many of the legendary jazz musicians she had long admired, and who now in turn admired her musicianship.
Daryl was lucky, and talented enough, to work in music from the time she arrived in New York. She did not have to take other jobs to support herself. She had taken her father's advice and immediately joined the musicians' union. He had also suggested she look up Cy Coleman and remind Coleman of his days playing with Sammy Sherman in the Catskills. When Daryl went to meet Coleman, she asked him if he could suggest a bass player for one of her first New York gigs. The name he came up with was the ubiquitous Jay Leonhart, who has since joined her many times in clubs and on recordings.
Meanwhile, her own style matured. "I came to New York with a large repertoire, but I didn't have much information about the songs and songwriters. I found that New York audiences came up to me and made me aware of the importance of who wrote what. I quickly realized this was a different kind of proving ground."
Her knowledge of musical history grew. She developed an affinity for one of the first lady pianists, Ramona Davies, who played with the Paul Whiteman's Band and appeared in a few movies. Daryl still goes back to the early '20's and '30's music for her own listening pleasure. Her singing influences remain Mildred Bailey, as well as Sylvia Syms, who became a good friend and mentor, and Daryl has a great respect for Blossom Dearie.
Daryl made her first recording, I'm A Dreamer, Aren't We all?, which led to a tour with Artie Shaw's band in 1983, when he came out of retirement. She also performed with re-creations of the Paul Whiteman and Ray Noble bands, as well as the American Jazz Orchestra and WDR Jazz Orchestra of Germany.
In the 1970's, when Daryl arrived in New York, major hotels still regularly featured live music, and Daryl performed in the hotel show rooms, including the Sheraton. Although fewer hotels today feature live music, one exception is the elegant Waldorf Astoria, where, for the past few years, Daryl has performed on Cole Porter's piano. "I'm an entertainer. I like having people around me. In a hotel, sometimes you have to be to be all things to all people, people from different countries. You have to make your presence known just enough but also know when not to call too much attention to yourself.""Because of my repertoire, the American songbook, some jazz standards, and some things that you don't hear too often, it's hard to categorize myself. I end up saying, 'I'm a jazz/cabaret artist because I enjoy presenting material that you may not have heard to death.'"
From Kurt Weill to Dizzy Gillespie -- Daryl Sherman presents it all -- "kicking it around" at straight-ahead jazz venues like the JVC Jazz Festival; programs with Dick Hyman at the 92nd Street Y, Lincoln Center, and VanWezel Hall in Sarasota, Florida; tributes to jazz greats like Mildred Bailey. She has also appeared at supper clubs, such as Freddy's, where she recorded a second album (She's A Great, Great Girl), and the cozy, upscale FireBird Cafe. She is drawn most to a venue which affords intimacy and contact with the audience. She also likes working with a trio, guitar, bass or a horn player, giving her the chance to play piano and then get up and sing.
"I particularly like working with a guitar because I like the lighter texture, and it also frees me from the piano because it is a chordal instrument."
She calls herself a "reactive performer," not a set way of playing piano, rarely repeating herself. Playing with different musicians expands this approach to her music.
"There are so many bass players, for example, who have different sounds on their instruments, different concepts of time, the beat, that make you play differently. And horn players -- they have to be able to enhance and continue my thoughts as a singer. It takes a lot of listening to each other."
She aims for economy in her music, citing examples like Shirley Horn and Blossom Dearie. Sylvia Syms advised her to, "Stop listening to the sound of your voice, and think about the song and what the song is saying." Daryl feels that can apply just as well to a pianist; she is not one who tries to "fill all the spaces."
Relaxation? In what time there is, she likes to ride horses and her bike. And Daryl particularly loves dancing, and laughingly admits,
"I am a closet salsa dancer."
With her hotel and club performances, there isn't much down time, but Daryl also enjoys cooking for friends who enjoy her "concoctions." But most of her time is involved with music, including coaching young musicians and participating in workshops.
"Some people see me in one way, either just seated at the piano, or just singing in front of the piano, sometimes in intimate settings, sometimes in concert halls, not realizing that I do all these things. I have made my living as a musician for all the years I've been here, and have pretty much enjoyed doing what I wanted to do musically." -Elizabeth Ahlfors