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Ex-Hiroshima keyboard wizard John Shipley has taken the jazz fusion aspirations of his old outfit into a whole different arena, to good effect. Shipley’s strength lies in his ability to mix genres and mood: classic jazz riffs cross-pollinate easily with thickly syncopated rap vocals as well as luxurious excursions into smoky R&B and the retro grandeur of a big band, orchestral feel. Soaring, emotional, lushly extravagant and dramatic, Shipley’s songs have real power and originality, gelling his influences into a charming new whole that’s moody, intense and ambient simultaneously.
"Shipped" is a disc that’s probably best listened to late at night though its impressive instrumental loop-de-loops might make for a spectacular live show as well.
What space-warps Shipley into a broader musical universe is his easy transition to an urban-laced sound which relies on vocals as its central focus. (Credit Motown producer Greg Wright, who brings the classic R&B cachet of former colleagues Natalie Cole, Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye to the mix.)
The disc’s high point is no doubt "It’s A Street Level Life," featuring Indeya Jones’ impassioned, subterranean-club-hopping-rap-crossover-diva vocals. However, Shipley makes the all-instrumental tracks cross over as well by the sheer emotional force of his aggressive, emphatic keyboard style. That’s especially evident on Shipley’s re-working of the Hiroshima classic, "Another Place." A fluid and evocative musician, Shipley guides his ensemble with the assured, well-oiled approach of the veteran he is, working his outfit’s expanded sonic vocabulary with aplomb.
Other highlights of this sure-to-be-a-smooth-jazz-station-fave excursion include the percolating keyboard work of "Mr. Yesterday." Dan and June Kuramoto from Hiroshima, Larry Klimas from Manhattan Transfer, Randy Hall from the Miles Davis Band, and Alex Acuna from Weather Report contribute properly jaw-dropping chops as guest musicians on this recommended disc.
Track Listing: If You're Not Callin' Your're Askin', It's A Street Level Life, Another Place, Ruby Lips and Opal Eyes, Mr. Yesterday, Don't Take Your Love, Portrait, From the Ending, Dancing Waters, I Believe in Children
Personnel: Dan Kuramoto of Hiroshima, June Kuramoto of Hiroshima, Alex Acuna of Weather Report, Randy Hall of Miles Davis Band, Indeya Jones, Larry Klimas of Manhattan Transfer, Abraham Laboriel, John Pena, Charlotte Pope, Pete Henze, Greg Wright
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.