Shapes: The Big Picture (2005)
Put it this way: listening to the free end of sound can be like having a crew of insouciant ragtag carpenters come into your back yard to put up a tree house in the writhing limbs of an old oak, constructing a sprawling asymetrical off-kilter edifice that fits itself into the unpredictable twists and turns of untamed branchings. With The Big Picture, it's more like hiring a team of cabinet makers to come in and refurbish your kitchen, setting in boxes of polished wood with all the angles fitting tight, seamless, everything lined up in a neat geometry.
That said, this two-disc set isn't all groove. Disc one luxuriates there, while disc two (reel one and two, using the "picture" theme) goes into a more mainstream mood, though still in a very precise atmosphere. And while the parallels have been pointed out, the group has a definitely distinct sound, in large part from Tollak Ollestad's chromatic harmonica contibutions as a lead instrument and, more interestingly, a harmonic device, alongside trombone on several cuts. Mike Fahn pushes things to the jazzier side of sound on disc two with his valve bone work on "Softly, as In a Morning Sunrise" and Cole Porter's classic "Love for Sale"; Nick Lane contributes bass and tenor trombone work on Roger Burn's original "Lobster"; while keyboardist Russell Ferranteone of Burn's heroesadds a very Yellowjackets tint to six tracks.
An often lush soundwith lots of impeccable synth-aided rhythm textures and some string sweetening, Shapes has risen to the top level of the groove/funk/jazz genre here with The Big Picture.
Visit Shapes on the web at www.shapesmusic.com .
Track Listing: CD1: Arc of Twilight, Naima, The Big Picture, Gabriela, Eat the Heat, Lobster, Measure Once, Sotto Voce. CD2: Softly As in a Morning Sunrise, Love for Sale, In the Outdoors, I Didn't Know What Time It Was, Automat, I Still Remember, What Now?
Personnel: Tollak Ollestad--chromatic harmonica, keys, background vocals; roger Burn--keys, vibraphone; Larry Steen, Dean Taba--bass, Jimmy Haslip; various others...
Record Label: Burnin' Down the House Records