Underestimate pianist / composer / arranger John Sheridan at your peril. Neatly dressed, apparently serious-minded, he is really a volcanic eruption of swing just waiting for the proper moment. Yes, he can play the most delicate traceries behind a soloist or our Becky Kilgore, and when he sits down at a new piano he is more likely to venture into IN A MIST than HONKY TONK TRAIN BLUES (although his version of the latter song is peerless). But he’s a Force of Nature when seated at the piano. No cascades of notes; no violent runs up and down the keyboard; no “displays of technique”: John simply starts plainly and builds and builds — at these times, the pianist he summons up most is the much-missed Dave McKenna, without consciously aping the Woonsocket, R.I. master’s locomotive patterns.
Sheridan remains Sheridan, and that’s a good thing.
Here he is (with Richard Simon, bass; Dick Shanahan, drums) in the final set of the final afternoon of the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival. All the musicians and the varied audiences were in a state of Jazz Satiety: whatever could have been played or heard was in the preceding four days.
So wily Mr. Sheridan eschewed his stride extravaganzas and tender ballads: instead, he suggested something both elementary and profound, Sonny Rollins’ calypso ST. THOMAS. And from those simple chords and potentially repetitive rhythmic patterns he built a powerful edifice — a masterpiece of variations on themes, of creative improvisation. And it rocked the house there — as I think it will do for yours now:
Another winning play from John Sheridan, man of many surprises!