Booking a flight on Andy Sheppard's airline can be vexing, since the composer/saxophonist has no certain destination and is liable to take off and land anywhere. For the adventuresome musical traveler, this is a good thing.
Sheppard burst on the scene in the 1980s with a series of acclaimed discs (now out-of-print) on the Antilles label, demonstrating strong playing and a John Coltrane-inspired sound. Soon, his restless spirit found him morphing into larger ensemble work, and of late he can be heard as an esteemed member of George Russell and Carla Bley's projects.
Movements In Colour, his first recording for the ECM label, fits nicely into producer/label head Manfred Eicher's sound aesthetic, as its eclecticism is never conspicuous and the sum of its worldly parts begets quite the spiritual experience. Those parts include tablaist Kuljit Bhamra for an Indian vibe, John Parricelli's Spanish-tinged guitar, guitarist Eivind Aarset's more modern guitar sounds, and stalwart Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen.
This music is an all-embracing joyous experience, with Sheppard levitating throughout. The traditional stop/start of Indian music is a platform for the band to dance its way through "Bing" with glee. Perhaps the best example of that soaring effect is "Nave Nave Moe," where the unruffled mingling of the partsthe Indian percussion, Spanish guitar and Nordic pulsesets the stage for the floating sound of Sheppard's soprano. The saxophonist takes a calm, unhurried glide through the track, one of sonic jubilation.
Elsewhere, the ballads "Ballarina"with the two guitarists contrasting on electric and acousticand "May Song" focus more on the lyrical side of Sheppard's writing than propulsion of rhythm. "We Shall Not Go To Market Today" delivers a one-world sound that touches down on several continents, while the closing track, "International Blue," is a stripped-down blues that sums up Sheppard's itinerary nicely. There's no need to buckle up, you're not in for a bumpy ride.
Personnel: Andy Sheppard: soprano and tenor saxophone; John Parricelli: acoustic and electric guitars; Eivind Aarset: electric guitar, electronics; Arild Andersen: double-bass, electronics; Kuljit Bhamra: tabla, percussion.