Born and raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Sherman began playing music at the age of 12, almost immediately recognizing that it was his life’s calling. During high school he had the opportunity to play and record with Gospel immortal James Cleveland. After completing high school in 1986, Sherman attended Clark Atlanta University, graduating with a B.A. in Music Education. After college, he joined Atlanta-based piano legend Johnny O’Neal’s quintet for a time before moving to New York City in 1994.
After moving to New York, Sherman quickly connected with the fertile and vital scene at Smalls Jazz Club, where he was a regular until 1997. It was while playing at Smalls that Sherman caught the attention of Blue Note Records, the label for which he recorded his first two albums, Full Circle and Big Mama’s Biscuits, released in 1996 and 1998 respectively.
During the period in which he was performing at Smalls, Sherman also toured the U.S. and the Caribbean with the Boys Choir of Harlem in 1995; was a member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra from 1995 to 1997; recorded/toured with Marcus Roberts, and participated in the incomparable Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead Program. At the end of this prolific period, Sherman began a four-year stint with the Roy Hargrove quintet in 1997. After departing Roy Hargrove’s ensemble, Sherman shifted his primary focus to his own group. Although this was his primary commitment, Irby took the opportunity to join the final ensemble of the peerless Elvin Jones in 2004, and after Elvin’s passing, performed with Papo Va’zquez’s Pirates Troubadours.