Shapes: The Big Picture (2005)
From its debut recording in 2002, this sextet has morphed into a much larger ensemble, in varied configurations, for this two-disc offering. Although two of its original members, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, were not present for the making of this album, The Big Picture includes performances by Russell Ferrante and Jimmy Haslip (associated with Yellowjackets), Robben Ford, Roy McCurdy, Mike Fahn, Matt Catingub, and Andy Suzuki.
In keeping with the cinematic concept, the album is structured into a two-disc package of Reel #1 and #2. The cover art depicts a drive-in theatre and this album is in effect some slyly played jazz-noire. Reel #1 might be looked upon as the appetizer and the musical cuisine could best be described as the high end of smooth jazz. It is devoid of the repetition of what that genre has come to mean to the general public. The tunes are all originals, save an interpretation of John Coltrane's "Naima." Many of these songs feature the chromatic harmonica of Tollak Ollestad, who effectively comes across as a soulful Toots Thielemans for the New Millennium. The presentation of these first six compositions is largely with a Latin or bossa overlay with the added attraction of arranger Roger Burn's vibes and piano work.
Reel #2 is the dinner that you've been waiting for. With essentially the same players, we are treated to a mainstream performance of seven more songs that will remind the listener of the GRP big band albums of the 1990s. "Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise" is a feature for guitarist Mike Higgins, and "Love For Sale" is another showcase for Ollestad's harmonica. Pauline Wilson, perhaps new to jazz vocals, provides an effective delivery of Rodgers and Hart's "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," following a cello rendering of the verse. Valve Trombonist Mike Fahn shines on several opportunities on Reel #2, as does reedman Andy Suzuki. Again, much of the success of this disc is the effectiveness of Roger Burn's playing and horn arrangements.
Track Listing: Disc One: Arc of Twilight, Naima, The Big Picture, Gabriela, Eat the Heat, Lobster, Measure One, Sotto Voce
Disc Two: 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 & blues harmonica, piano, synthesizer, background vocal; Roger Burn, Vibraphone, keyboards, B3, arrangements; Andy Suzuki, tenor sax, bass clarinet, flute, alto flute; Matt Catingub, alto sax; Bill Bergman, tenor sax;Rick Rossi,flutes; Mike Fahn, valve trombone; George McMullen, Steve Baxter, tenor trombone; Nick Lane, tenor and bass trombone; Les Lovitt, trumpet; Matthew Van Doran, Robben Ford, Ken Lasaine, Doug Livingston, Mike Higgins, guitars; Russell Ferrante, acoustic piano, B-3, Synth Pads,synthesizer; Jimmy Haslip, electric bass, tambourine, background vocal; Larry Steen, Dean Taba,acoustic bass; Pauline Wilson, Wally Wino,vocals; David Derge, Roy McCurdy,drums; Walfredo Reyes,Jr, Billy Hulting percussion; Joe Turano, accordion.