With mallets at the fore, a solid set of originals on the program and a strong cast in the mix, vibraphonist Steve Shapiro's musical voice and vision is clear and really something to hearacross this seven-song set. Working under the banner of a perfectly paradoxical title, he makes his mark from a number of anglesthose of soloist, harmonist, composer and bandleaderand gives his bandmates their due.
Sophisticated jazz-pop sets the scene as Shapiro shares the spotlight with vocalist Lucy Woodward and saxophonist Jeff Coffin on "Extremely Moderate." Moving on to the fusion-forward title track, the leader adds electro allure with his Wernick Xylosynth mallet controller, guitarist Oz Noy brings his characteristic heat to the music, and bassist Mark Egan and drummer Carter McLean lay down the law from below. Further diversifying his portfolio with the Frank Zappa-indebted "Chrome Dinette," Shapiro marries zany and virtuosic asides to blues rock language with some help from the tight-and-tasty combination of Egan, guitarist Shane Theriot and drummer Joel Rosenblatt.
Bringing sensitivity to the surface at the album's midpoint, the vibraphonist offers the haunting "Outono." Penned in the '80s, this first recording of the ballad receives a beautiful treatment that benefits from Shapiro's leading light, Egan's fretless bass work and guitarist Pat Bergeson's tasteful work. Then it's off to future funk on "Candygram for Mongo," featuring Noy; over to the slick "Smellonious Funk," with Coffin and Shapiro upping the soul factor; and out with "I Am Not a Robot," a modernist soundscape bridging the leader's thoughts and reflexes with those of guitarist Bob Lanzetti. Variety truly proves to be a virtue on this appealing set, and Steve Shapiro is perfectly at home in every world he creates and enters.
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