In the spring of 2006, MCG Jazz Executive Producer, Marty Ashby, was in New York City for a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Jazz Network gathering. Following the meeting, Marty and a colleague happened to walk by the 55 Bar in Greenwich Village. Marty saw Sheryl's name on the door suggested they stop in (her name sounded familiar, even though Marty was sure that he did not know her). Within minutes of hearing Sheryl’s first tune Marty realized that he was somehow connected to her playing (a fact that would not be fully understood until many months later). Her musicianship, sense of groove and the unabashed clarity in which she improvised lines propelled Marty – on the spot – to want to work with her. He introduced himself after the set and told her he wanted to produce a record for her. Fortunately, Sheryl had heard of MCG Jazz and thought Marty was only mildly crazy at the time. As it turns out Sheryl grew up in Western Pennsylvania not far from MCG.
Now, over three years later, they have put together a collection of songs that have very special meaning for both Sheryl and Marty. They wanted to have this recording be different than anything else she had done in the past which led to the use of a full 16-piece jazz orchestra as the core group. This configuration provided a wide palette to work from; from solo guitar, to screaming full-band sections with Sheryl's “voice” flying over the top of it all. All of the arrangements on the album were done by yet more talented Pittsburghers, Mike Tomaro and Dr. John Wilson. Their engaging writing styles give all of the tunes a fresh appeal to both big band and guitar fans alike.
Shortly after they began working together it became clear that they both had a very deep connection to the late guitarist Emily Remler. Sheryl wrote the title track, A New Promise, for Emily as a personal promise to herself to strengthen her dedication to music and carry on what Emily had begun in blazing a trail for female jazz guitarists. There are two other original compositions on the recording Miekkaniemi and Unified Field, which show a wonderful diversity in Sheryl’s writing capabilities.
Also included are three compositions by Emily Remler East To Wes, Mocha Spice and Carenia. Given the creative use of the big band arrangements, these pieces are destined to become standard literature for guitar players around the globe. The soli section (guitar, trombone and soprano saxophone) in East to Wes is actually a transcription of the solo Emily played on the original recording. Sheryl’s ability to play the passage with such grit and passion illustrates her commitment to understating Emily’s contribution to the jazz guitar and her desire to carry that message forward.
The projects rounds out with two standards Lament and You And The Night which gives a brief look at Sheryl’s ability to play classic jazz literature – steeped in jazz history – with a contemporary style. This entire project took on a powerful meaning for Marty personally as it pays tribute to his good friend and a much underappreciated artist – Emily Remler. At the same time, Marty says he is inspired by Sheryl’s unique musical “voice” and is thrilled to help share her musical message with others.