Daryl Sherman: transports of delight

The New York based singer and pianist is keeping the leather-clad limo in reserve as she plies her tuneful trade around the world's jazz venues

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Daryl Sherman likes to do things the hard way. On July 16  – technically that’s incorrect because the witching hour was running for a bus, so we’re talking early on the 17th – I was bemused to see her struggling out of a cab and into the tube station at Sloane Square laden with a large bag containing the charts she had collected from the musicians who had supplemented her piano and vocals at her earlier gig at the Pheasantry in King’s Road, Chelsea.

As it happened I had been ringside at her gig at the Pheasantry and then beguiled an hour or so at a journo-friendly hostelry adjacent to Sloane Square tube and without really thinking about it had assumed on a sub-conscious level that Daryl would be wending her way to her North London bailiwick cocooned in the plush leather of a chauffeur-driven limo.

“You’ve got to be kidding”, she said over coffee and cakes later that week. “I go everywhere by public transport when I’m working away from home”. Home has for many years now been an apartment in mid-town Manhattan and away, as in working away, could be anything from the Brecon Beacons to Swansea, Southport, Grimsby, Edinburgh, Arbroath, or even downtown Tokyo where it’s nothing for her to spend weeks at a time; it amused me to think that public transport in the land of the rising sun might still translate to rickshaw.

You can access the salient stats merely by typing Daryl Sherman into your search engine of choice, where you will learn that she was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island to a musician father, began piano at six, moved to New York in 1974, and the rest is history. What you won’t necessarily learn is stuff like “I’m the eldest of four, only one of which, a sister, is musical – she teaches piano” or “I played at the Waldorf Astoria for 14 years, originally in Peacock Alley where Cole Porter’s piano was then housed”. As a lifelong Porter buff I had actually seen the piano in repose, touched it reverently, heard it played by Jimmy Lyon, and even, whilst it was temporarily unoccupied, wandered around the suite where Porter lived for many years, though alas, it’s now closed to anoraks like me.

She elaborated on those first steps: “When I was around six, my dad (Sammy Sherman, a trombonist of note) sat me at the piano, put my hands on the keys, formed chords, and got me to play them, in effect training my ear; later, when I was around seven, I had formal lessons from a teacher”.

Woonsocket had a previous claim to fame, as I reminded her, but once again she was ahead of me. “You mean the great piano man Dave McKenna. He was about 20 years my senior but we did make an album together around the millennium”. Indeed they did and Jubilee is on my shelves even as we speak, a typical Sherman album in its eclectic mix of the standard (Memphis In June), the neglected (Moonburn), the obscure (Swingtime In Honolulu) and the “Wh-a-t?” (Turnip Or Tulip), the latter two titles both the work of Duke Ellington. Although Dave does the lion’s share Daryl handles piano chores on four of the tracks and a good time is had by all.

I asked what she’d been doing lately. “I put together a show featuring Carl Sigman which seemed to go down well”. This was catnip to me given my fascination with songwriters. Like Sam Coslow, Sigman could write both words and music and his titles – Civilisation, Ballerina, Ebb Tide, Careless Hands, It’s All In The Game – are much better known than he is. I can only hope she sees fit to bring that show to the UK sooner rather than later.

And next? “I’m doing a week in Bryant Park in August (she was referring to the annual piano festival on 42nd Street close to the New York Public Library) and then I’m going back to Rhode Island, Newport, for a gig at the Vineyard”.

The Vineyard was a gig played regularly by the late Marlene VerPlanck, a close friend of both Daryl and myself. There are more connections: I first met Daryl some 22 years ago in Manhattan’s Tavern On The Green and in fact that gig was the last of six that Marlene played that week. We were both standing around waiting for her, Daryl because Marlene was giving her a ride to her apartment and me because I was staying with Marlene as a house guest. The last time Daryl and I met – prior to the gig at The Pheasantry – was at Marlene’s Memorial Service at which Daryl performed and we were both guests at the subsequent dinner. Symmetry or what.

Perhaps not unnaturally we spent some time swapping stories stories about our mutual friend but finally I asked if there was a new album in the pipeline. “I don’t know – do you think I should record Carl Sigman?”

That’s like saying do I think the sun should come up tomorrow. All I know is that should she do so it would please me enormously as, I suspect, it would her large UK fan-base, many of whom I hope will be reading this salute to a great entertainer.