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In June 2008, Brad Shepik premiered his work Human Activity Suite: Sounding a Response to Climate Change in New York. It was born out of his concern for the environment and the impact of climate change.
Shepik, who is drawn to the music of other countries, wrote one tune for each of the seven continents, augmenting the suite with three more. His compositions soak up the music of various lands, showcasing his adaptation of the folk formsalbeit, as he says, filtered through the prism of Brooklyn. If anything, the blend becomes all the more fascinating in his hands and those of his band.
A virtuosic guitarist, Shepik also plays the tambura and electric saz on this outing. The instruments serve to augment the sonic ambience of the compositions. "Stir" carves a place for the tambura, the drone of the instrument complementing the bass of Drew Gress and then the guitar. Shepik plays with a clean linearity, the melody calm in its devolution yet warm in its demeanor.
Gary Versace creates a resonant atmosphere as he wraps his accordion around the African melody of "Blue Marble." The tempo of the song shifts constantly. Shepik leaps into the framework, drinking from the fount of the melody. He knows how to get the best out of the harmony as well and turns in another eloquent performance.
Shepik envelops jazz in the arrangements. The music does not always have the primary position, but it is a palpable presence. "By A Foot" is set in jazz terrain by trumpeter Ralph Alessi, whose trenchant lines are in sharp contrast to the cool of Versace's piano. The momentum is at odds but the balance is perfect.
"Waves" is a joyous delight as it pulls in wide-ranging music from Indian to Arabic and Oriental. Shepik has fused the width among them seamlessly and the soloists take up the challenge and make it a triumph.
Shepik has fashioned a musical odyssey that is at once compelling and rapturous.
Track Listing: Lima (South America); Blindspot (North America); Human activity; Stir (Antarctica); Not So Far (Australia); Current; Carbonic; Blue Marble; By A Foot (Europe); Waves (Asia).
Personnel: Brad Shepik: electric and acoustic guitars, tambura, electric saz; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Gary Versace: piano, organ, accordion; Drew Gress: bass; Tom Rainey: drums.
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.