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Paul Shapiro: It's in the Twilight

John Kelman By

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Reconvening the same group that made his debut, Midnight Minyan (Tzadik, 2003), so engaging, tenor saxophonist Paul Shapiro's new release is an even more exuberant affair. Combining a wealth of musical styles with the distinctive Jewish flavor that has made John Zorn's Radical Jewish Culture series so unpredictable, Shapiro proves that twilight needn't be a time for introspection. If anything, Shapiro's music aligns itself with the idea of twilight as a transitional meeting time, creating something not of any one style, but instead a nexus point where various elements conjoin into something altogether new.

One might expect an album referencing erev shabbat—the moment when the work week ends and the sabbath begins—to be more subdued. But while It's in the Twilight is rarely hurried, neither is it reflective. Instead, it's about playful interaction, and the members of Shapiro's sextet are clearly comfortable enough with each other to take risks with complete trust.

A rich Latin rhythm is the foundation for the traditional "Light Rolls the Darkness," whose melody conjoins Cuban and Jewish traditions—a connection also made on Cuban ex-pat Roberto Juan Rodriguez's rhythm-heavy Baila! Gitano Baila! (Tzadik, 2004). The warmth of the trumpet and twin-tenor lineup makes for an especially lush sound. Shapiro and saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum play with a burly tone, and trumpeter Steven Bernstein has never shied away from brightness, but despite the front line's expressionist behavior, it's never brash or harsh.



The dervish-like "Children of Abraham" is propelled by Tony Lewis' pounding tom toms and a two-chord vamp that lets everyone solo to extremes while remaining focused on its insistent rhythm. "The Sun Keeps Coming Up" revolves around a traditional minor mode, but its funky groove creates an infectious 1960s Blue Note soul vibe. The equally soulful "Lecha Dodi Twilight" injects a 21st Century facelift into 16th Century kabbalist Rabbi Shelomo Halevi Alkabetz's "Come, My Beloved."



Shapiro transforms the traditional "Kiddush"—the blessing over the cup of wine that is traditionally shared by all at the table—into a rubato tone poem that's the most poignant moment on the disc. "Oy Veys Mir" looks fondly back to the jump swing era—even quoting 1932's "Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn" ("To Me You are Beautiful") by Sholom Secunda and Jacob Jacobs. Traditionally sung at the end of Sabbath and morning services, "Adon Olam" ("Master of the Universe") gets a breezy treatment, with both saxophones soloing over Shapiro's gentle singing.



Finishing on a melancholy note, "One Must Leave So Another May Come" finds Shapiro at his most lyrical. It's a beautiful way to end It's in the Twilight, another fine entry in Tzadik's Radical Jewish Culture series, placing one ethnic tradition in such a broad context that it has truly become a world music.


Track Listing: Light Rolls Away the Darkness; Children of Abraham; The Sun Keeps on Coming Up; Lecha Dodi Twilight; Kiddush; Oy Veys Mir; Adon Olam; One Must Leave So Another Can Come

Personnel: Paul Shapiro: tenor sax, vocals; Steven Bernstein: trumpet, slide trumpet, vocals; Peter Apfelbaum: tenor sax, vocals; Bian Mitchell: piano; Booker King accoustic bass; Tony Lewis: drums.

Title: It's In The Twilight | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Tzadik

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