Amazon.com Widgets

Brad Shepik: Human Activity Suite (2009)

By Published: | 3,114 views
Brad Shepik: Human Activity Suite How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Theoretically, it should be difficult to do protest music without lyrics; nevertheless, that hasn't stopped Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard
b.1962
trumpet
, Ben Allison
Ben Allison
Ben Allison
b.1966
bass, acoustic
, and—most recently—Jeff "Tain" Waits from launching heat-seeking discs aimed right at the heart of some of this decade's most sensitive political issues. Now it's guitarist Brad Shepik's turn at bat with Human Activity Suite, only he's done things a little differently.

While Allison's Cowboy Justice (Palmetto, 2006), Blanchard's A Tale of God's Will: Requiem for Katrina (Blue Note, 2007), and Tain's Watts (Dark Keys Music, 2009) focused on the micro level while sticking with particular people or events, Shepik's Chamber Music America-supported set examines both the macro and micro perspectives of global warming. The subject itself is obviously macro, but by dedicating each movement to one country—or to one aspect of climate change—Shepik breaks things down from the global to the personal.

There's a faint dissonance under Drew Gress

Drew Gress
Drew Gress
b.1959
bass
' bass solo at the front of "Lima (South America)." Shepik's guitar and Gary Versace's accordion place the problem at a distance, like a single rider on the horizon. By mid-tune, though, the full band is dancing in a Carnaval-by-the-sea mode, with Versace and Ralph Alessi
Ralph Alessi
Ralph Alessi
b.1963
trumpet
soaking the proceedings in an intoxicating mariachi vibe. Shepik returns to this theme on "Waves (Asia)," only now there's an air of desperation about the dance, as well as a sense that the ocean by the beach seems a lot closer than it did before. The protagonists in "Blindspot (North America)" don't have time to dance... or think, because they're too busy hurrying to work, school, or whatever it is that drives them heedlessly forward.

In preparing for Human Activity, Shepik studied music indigenous to the continents he portrays; he's brought in instruments not often heard in jazz, his electric saz brings a mournful mood to "Currents" that intensifies the feeling of a lifeless desert stretching into the distance. His tambura on "Stir (Antarctica)" combines with Alessi's horn and Gress' bass to simulate a plodding polar bear watching his ice floe disappear inch by inch. However, Human Activity is not "World music" per se, since Shepik filters this international knowledge through a New York perspective that's aggressive from the jump.

Whether they're electric or acoustic, European or Middle Eastern, Shepik's solos almost always go for the throat, just like all these challenging compositions. That musical belligerence seems to have possessed Alessi, whose solos are higher and wilder than anything on his most recent recordings. Conversely, Gress seems right at home, serving up the weightlifter-strong foundation he's become famous for. With all that, it's Versace's unbelievable keyboard work that brings Human Activity together; his hymn-like organ on "Stir" evokes the majesty of ancient glaciers, while his piano on "Carbonic" dances with the joy of life. Some say global warming is a false issue, though some sopping wet polar bears disagree. Human Activity Suite doesn't mince words or parse political stances. Instead, it takes one uncompromising stance: Don't just sit there... do something!

Track Listing: Lima (South America); Blindspot (North America); Human Activity; Stir (Antarctica); Not So Far (Australia); Current; Carbonic; Blue Marble (Africa); By a Foot (Europe); Waves (Asia).

Personnel: Brad Shepik: electric & acoustic guitars, tambura, electric saz; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Gary Versace: piano, organ, accordion; Drew Gress: bass; Tom Rainey: drums.

Record Label: Songlines Recordings

Style: Modern Jazz


comments powered by Disqus
Search
Support All About Jazz Through Amazon

Weekly Giveaways

Mark Elf

Mark Elf

About | Enter

Stefano Bollani

Stefano Bollani

About | Enter

Carmen Lundy

Carmen Lundy

About | Enter

Wadada Leo Smith

Wadada Leo Smith

About | Enter

Bandzoogle: GET STARTED TODAY - FREE TRIAL

Enter it twice.
To the weekly jazz events calendar

Enter the numbers in the graphic
Enter the code in this picture

Log in

One moment, you will be redirected shortly.

Article Search