once said if "you don't know the blues, there's no point in picking up the guitar." This is certainly true about rock, but it could just as easily apply to jazz. Many of the great jazz guitarists have roots in the blues, and Jim Josselyn
is no exception. His album Shape Shifter
offers a tasty serving of jazz seasoned with the blues.
Josselyn started playing guitar when he was young, but he took his musical training to the next level when he entered his local community college where he majored in music. He continued his studies, later earning a Master's degree from the Aaron Copland School of Music.
Josselyn's reputation as a guitarist is well-established. Along with his own recordings, he is also an accomplished composer whose work has appeared on numerous television and movie soundtracks. He is the director of The School of Music and Drama in Little Silver, New Jersey, and he has written extensively about jazz in numerous publications, including All About Jazz
. Shape Shifter
features seven songs, all of which are originals with the exception of John Coltrane
's "Equinox." Josselyn is joined by an excellent group of musicians, including Brian Charette
on organ, Scott Avidon
on saxophone, Caleb Rumley
on trombone, James Gibbs
on trumpet, and Noel Sagerman
The title track to Shape Shifter
sets the album's overall tone. Josselyn came up with an idea while practicing, and as he puts it, "I heard this sound in a blues context." What he envisioned, though, was different from a standard blues. Rather than following conventional blues phrasing, he tried a different approach. Also, when he changed the chords, he maintained a static bass note. From there, he was able to build a melody around the chord structure.
The compositions range from the modal jazz sound of "Shape Shifter" and the driving groove of "Iris" to the minor blues feel of "Equinox." Songs such as "Heads Up" and "Waltz for a Rainy Day" highlight Caleb Rumley's talent as an arranger. The songs provide a canvas for improvisation, and all of the players are in top form.
As a guitarist, Josselyn has an inventive and melodic style. While his playing is totally unique, there are some hints of his influences as well. There are bluesy touches of players like Grant Green
and Kenny Burrell
, but there's also the fluidity of someone like Pat Martino
There is an element of coolness that permeates Shape Shifter
, and it warrants repeated listening. The level of musicianship is impressive, and this is an album many aspiring jazz players might easily be tempted to copy licks from.
Shape Shifter; Clarisse; Waltz for a Rainy Day; Heads Up; Never and Again; Iris; Equinox
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