Shot x Shot is an acoustic quartet comprised of twenty-something graduates of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. Their sophomore effort, Let Nature Square, is their first studio recording, following their highly acclaimed 2006 live, self-titled debut on High Two.
Saxophonists Dan Scofield (alto) and Bryan Rogers (tenor) make up the effusive front line, with Matt Engle (bass) and Dan Capecchi (drums) forming a pliant rhythm section. All scene regulars, Scofield and Engle are members of the cutting edge Latin jazz ensemble Sonic Liberation Front, while Scofield and Rogers work with fellow Philadelphia-based saxophonist Bobby Zankel.
On the surface, Shot x Shot shares similarities with the renown quartet Human Feel, formed by former Boston music students Jim Black, Andrew d'Angelo, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Chris Speed in 1987, at the onset of their burgeoning solo careers. While the two ensembles entertain a fondness for contrapuntal harmonies and metrically complex stop-start rhythmsthey differ in intent. Shot x Shot embraces a highly disciplined approach to group improvisation, with an emphasis on ensemble sound, eschewing sudden stylistic shifts in favor of extended thematic development.
Scofield and Rogers unveil an expressive lyricism drawn from Ornette Coleman's vocalized intonation and the regal solemnity of mid-period Coltrane. Avoiding conventional archetypes and histrionic outbursts, they often play in tandem, intermeshing with sympathetic accord and balanced dynamics as they complement and contrast each others circuitous statements. Their serpentine cadences on "Scans" veer from robust and assertive to tender and reserved. "Overlay" demonstrates their full range; working pointillist textural accents into variations on an understated melody, they ascend from cascading euphony to bristling ardor.
Engle and Capecchi modulate fluidly between pneumatic grooves, complex metric patterns, limber rubato pulses and colorful accents. At their most unified they drive the angular "Triple Double" with a mutable funk vamp, relegating the horns to a supporting role. Demonstrating their conversational acumen, bass and drums spar sans horns through the final half of "Scans."
Consisting of five long-form compositions, the album encompasses a variety of moods, fluctuating from intricate unison themes and synchronous collective improvisation to verbose soliloquies and discursive pairings. Unimpeded by chord changes, habitual rhythmic devices or outmoded structural limitations, "Oh No" and "Autobonsai" are definitive, driven by shifting rhythmic patterns and concise linear themes that orbit harmonic tonal centers.
A young ensemble on the rise, Shot x Shot is poised for a promising future. Let Nature Square effectively captures their emotive live energy and creative potential in pristine studio sound.
Personnel: Dan Scofield: alto saxophone; Bryan Rogers: tenor saxophone; Matt Engle: bass; Dan Capecchi: drums.