All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

107

Shapes: The Big Picture

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
The Big Picture listening experience had me thinking of the different styles of jazz sounds, from the wild and free end of the spectrum to the more structured funk/groove world. This offering, by Shapes—a vehicle for keyboardist/vibraphone man Roger Burn—has a definite Yellowjackets feel. Produced by bassist Jimmy Haslip of that esteemed ensemble, the sound here is groove-oriented, very well-crafted, with polished arrangements of music mapped out down to the lightposts on the street corners, very little left to chance. In all but the very top musicians that navigate this cartography—Yellowjackets, Bob James, Don Grusin, Weather Report, Return to Forever—there can be a feeling of stricture, a sometimes bothersome lack of spontaneity. But with those top level travelers on this route—and Shapes fit in here—the music has a beautifully comfortable sheen and allure.

Put it this way: listening to the free end of sound can be like having a crew of insouciant ragtag carpenters come into your back yard to put up a tree house in the writhing limbs of an old oak, constructing a sprawling asymetrical off-kilter edifice that fits itself into the unpredictable twists and turns of untamed branchings. With The Big Picture, it's more like hiring a team of cabinet makers to come in and refurbish your kitchen, setting in boxes of polished wood with all the angles fitting tight, seamless, everything lined up in a neat geometry.

That said, this two-disc set isn't all groove. Disc one luxuriates there, while disc two (reel one and two, using the "picture" theme) goes into a more mainstream mood, though still in a very precise atmosphere. And while the parallels have been pointed out, the group has a definitely distinct sound, in large part from Tollak Ollestad's chromatic harmonica contibutions as a lead instrument and, more interestingly, a harmonic device, alongside trombone on several cuts. Mike Fahn pushes things to the jazzier side of sound on disc two with his valve bone work on "Softly, as In a Morning Sunrise" and Cole Porter's classic "Love for Sale"; Nick Lane contributes bass and tenor trombone work on Roger Burn's original "Lobster"; while keyboardist Russell Ferrante—one of Burn's heroes—adds a very Yellowjackets tint to six tracks.

An often lush sound—with lots of impeccable synth-aided rhythm textures and some string sweetening, Shapes has risen to the top level of the groove/funk/jazz genre here with The Big Picture.

Visit Shapes on the web at www.shapesmusic.com .


Track Listing: CD1: Arc of Twilight, Naima, The Big Picture, Gabriela, Eat the Heat, Lobster, Measure Once, Sotto Voce. CD2: Softly As in a Morning Sunrise, Love for Sale, In the Outdoors, I Didn't Know What Time It Was, Automat, I Still Remember, What Now?

Personnel: Tollak Ollestad--chromatic harmonica, keys, background vocals; roger Burn--keys, vibraphone; Larry Steen, Dean Taba--bass, Jimmy Haslip; various others...

Title: The Big Picture | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Burnin' Down the House Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
The Big Picture

The Big Picture

Burnin' Down the House Records
2005

buy

Related Articles

Read Dirt...And More Dirt CD/LP/Track Review
Dirt...And More Dirt
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Locked & Loaded CD/LP/Track Review
Locked & Loaded
by John Kelman
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Long Story Short CD/LP/Track Review
Long Story Short
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Awase CD/LP/Track Review
Awase
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: May 26, 2018
Read Invisible Touch At Taktlos Zurich CD/LP/Track Review
Invisible Touch At Taktlos Zurich
by John Sharpe
Published: May 26, 2018
Read My Singing Fingers CD/LP/Track Review
My Singing Fingers
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 25, 2018
Read "Tenderly featuring Gilad Hekselman" CD/LP/Track Review Tenderly featuring Gilad Hekselman
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 30, 2017
Read "I Am" CD/LP/Track Review I Am
by Geno Thackara
Published: November 13, 2017
Read "Sticks and Stones" CD/LP/Track Review Sticks and Stones
by John Kelman
Published: February 3, 2018
Read "Sovereign" CD/LP/Track Review Sovereign
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 30, 2017
Read "In Stride" CD/LP/Track Review In Stride
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: March 26, 2018
Read "Fullmoon" CD/LP/Track Review Fullmoon
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 24, 2018