Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
390

Brad Shepik: Human Activity Suite

By

Sign in to view read count
Brad Shepik: Human Activity Suite Deep-blue oceans, airbrushed clouds, flaking dabs of greens receding into desolate plains... Remember the first time you saw a picture of the Earth? Remember that feeling?

Did you know one can cover the Earth with one's thumb when standing from the Moon? Defenseless in the pitch-black, still silence of the Universe, our home—at least, that of the time of a few nanoseconds stolen from eternity—now faces more threats from its own inhabitants than from other celestial bodies possibly hitting its trajectory around the Sun.

Singing nature's beauty is nothing new for artists. Though very much an act of creation and expression, music making remains fundamentally one of communion, not only between its partakers, but also with the immediate environment in which sounds are created and travelled. Echoing chants and carrying them over whispering air streams to die deep into the deserts of our souls, nature, in turn, forever keeps singing the artists' songs. To quote an old Satchmo classic, a wonderful world it is indeed.

In his ode Human Activity Suite—which, it must be noted, possesses a very Greenpeace conference-like subtitle, "Sounding a Response to Climate Change"—guitarist Brad Shepik caps his longstanding concern with the hot-button issue. The harsh realism of the subject matter and title notwithstanding, nothing is a bore in this musical missive. Whereas many of his predecessors romanticize the delivery of their message with New Age-y hogwash, the New York City-based ethnomusicologist/composer presents an imaginative travelogue-type program that is as moving melodically and harmonically as it is sonically.

From the hypnotic rounds of Shepik's tambura in "Blue Marble" to the slow movements of Antarctic ice depicted in the processional "Stir," by way of the dancing, Klezmer-inflected "Waves" and Gary Versace's folk-y, South American-tinged accordion on "Lima" and melodious maneuvering in "Not So Far," the quintet sticks a pin on each the seven continents and peppers its worldly excursion of three programmatic pieces about the factors and effects of climate change.

Making the trip with Shepik and uber-creative pianist Versace are veterans bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tom Rainey, as well as trumpeter Ralph Alessi, whose pungent, brassy tone blends rather well with the leader's Dave Fiuczynski-reminiscent approach to guitar sound and playing.

As noted in the liner notes, music, as one of the most elevated mechanisms of communication, can raise awareness and spur to action. And for that, as for the seriousness which threads through the project's artistic direction and extra-musical message, Brad Shepik deserves one giant thumbs up.


Track Listing: Lima (South America); Blindspot (North America); Human Activity; Stir (Antarctica); Not So Far (Australia): Current; Carbonic; Blue Marble (Africa); By a Foot (Europe); Waves (Asia).

Personnel: Brad Shepik: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, tambura, electric saz; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Gary Versace: piano, organ, accordion; Drew Gress: bass; Tom Rainey: drums.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

Hi-Res Jazz
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Quartet 1991
Quartet 1991
Songlines Recordings
2016
buy
Top Down
Top Down
Self Produced
2016
buy
Across The Way
Across The Way
Songlines Recordings
2011
buy
Human Activity Suite
Human Activity Suite
Songlines Recordings
2009
buy
Places You Go
Places You Go
Songlines Recordings
2007
buy
The Well
The Well
Songlines Recordings
2003
buy
Dave Douglas Dave Douglas
trumpet
Ben Allison Ben Allison
bass, acoustic
Nels Cline Nels Cline
guitar, electric
Donny McCaslin Donny McCaslin
saxophone
Miles Okazaki Miles Okazaki
guitar
Ben Monder Ben Monder
guitar
Uri Caine Uri Caine
piano

Events

Date Event Time Tickets
Oct6Thu Ben Holmes Quartet
Jalopy Theatre
Brooklyn, NY
8:00 PM

More Articles

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.