Sherman Irby was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He found his calling to music at age 12. In high school, he played and recorded with gospel immortal James Cleveland.
He graduated from Clark Atlanta University with a B. A. in Music Education. In 1991, he joined Johnny O’Neal’s Atlanta-based quintet. In 1994, he moved to New York City, then recorded his first two albums, Full Circle (1996) and Big Mama’s Biscuits (1998), on Blue Note Records.
Irby toured the U.S. and the Caribbean with the Boys Choir of Harlem in 1995, and was a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra from 1995 to 1997. During that tenure, he also recorded and toured with Marcus Roberts and was part of Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead Program and Roy Hargrove.
After a four-year stint with Roy Hargrove, Irby focused on his own group, in addition to being a member of Elvin Jones’ ensemble and Papo Vazquez’s Pirates Troubadours. Since 2003, Irby has been the regional director for JazzMasters Workshop, mentoring young children, and a board member for the CubaNOLA Collective. Irby formed Black Warrior Records and released Black Warrior, Faith, Organ Starter and Live at the Otto Club under the new label.