For his debut album, Cycles of Animation, New York bassist Shawn Lovato has gathered an impressive, equally forward-thinking cast of musicians, comprised of guitarist Brad Shepik, saxophone virtuoso Loren Stillman, Argentinian pianist Santiago Leibson and drum stick juggler Chris Carroll. The innovative guitarist Shepik has been going at it in various formations, experimenting with a vast array of different music for a couple of decades now, most recently performing and recording with the humble Rumbler Quartet, featuring Ben Monder on Bass. The wide-spread and strongly diverse activity of all collaborators here makes for the ideal atmosphere to adequately accompany Shawn Lovato in his compositional ventures, that alternate between improvisation and strict architectural structures.
The opener "Loose Noodle" functions as a sort of overture to this oeuvre, compactly presenting the colors and shapes that ultimately unfold and experience further development during the course of the album. The compositional aspect is reflected only in the fixed meter and pulsating stabs by saxophone and guitar in the interval of a major second, forming the main and constant motif of the piece. Framed by punchy basslines and sparsely placed syncopating chords on piano, the guitar and drums intensify the pace with various melodic and rhythmic approaches.
In this manner the set continues, alternating between quieter passageswhere one can hear and feel the musicians searching for one another, implicitly creating intense dialoguesand more furious displays of contradicting scales in all voices, with tonal centers seemingly dissolving. An example of the latter is "7th Street Jig," which is barely a composition at all, but a layer cake made up of frantic ensemble jamming. The musicians, who on first consideration seem to be playing independently from one another, eventually come together to shape a harmonically climaxing sound carpet.
The title lending its name to the album Cycles of Animation is divided into three parts, each constructed around a base made up of calm conversations between piano, drums and bass. As the subheadings of the parts suggest ("Slow, Harvest," "Inhale, Exhale," "Labor, Rest"), this piece functions as the contrastingly calmer counterpoint to the otherwise jumpy exhibition pieces that make up the rest of the record and therefore finds itself evenly distributed across the album.
The highlights that make these sounds a truly special offering lie within the fusion of the unique characters evoked by each instrument, ultimately leading to a singular timbre, that evolves and grows within the course of the album, quite justifiedly entitled Cycles of Animation.