Drummer Paul Shaw, best known as a reliable sideman in groups large and small, strides into the spotlight with panache as leader of his own quintet, having written every number on Moment of Clarity and entrusted them to the capable hands and singular talents of his earnest colleagues. He also gives those teammates ample space to shine, confining himself for the most part to timekeeping duties, which he carries out with adeptness and assurance.
As a composer, Shaw is competent albeit somewhat short of unique. Among his seven essays, those that resonate most conspicuously are "Shapeshifter," "Peekaboo" and "Showdown," but perhaps that is because they generate relatively more heat and energy than the others. The mid-tempo "Shapeshifter" embodies bracing solos by Shaw, pianist Gary Versace and trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, while the well-grooved "Peekaboo" (with its fleeting allusion to Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee") has Shaw trading four-bar broadsides with his sidekicks and soloing smartly on the heels of perceptive statements by Sipiagin, Versace, bassist Drew Gress and guitarist Brad Shepik. Versace's lively piano introduces "Showdown," which ends the session on a soulful note underscored by ardent solos all round.
The temper elsewhere is more subdued, from the laid-back opener, "Heartland," through the meditative "Song for Everyone" (with Gress lending added color on arco bass), the melodic "Mary Oliver" and the luminous "Moment of Clarity," each of which has its moments of pleasure and charm. Versace is an especially engaging soloist, with Sipiagin and Shepik nipping at his heels while Gress and Shaw preside over the rhythmic component. Shaw earns respectable marks for his compositions, even stronger endorsement for his choice of sidemen whose resilience helps raise Moment of Clarity above the ordinary.
Heartland; Shapeshifter; Song for Everyone; Mary Oliver; Peekaboo; Moment of Clarity; Showdown.