107

Shapes: The Big Picture

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
Shapes: The Big Picture 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

More Articles

Read Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends CD/LP/Track Review Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Heaven On Their Minds CD/LP/Track Review Heaven On Their Minds
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Unnatural  Events CD/LP/Track Review Unnatural Events
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Rediscovered Ellington CD/LP/Track Review Rediscovered Ellington
by James Nadal
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Clean CD/LP/Track Review Clean
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 15, 2017
Read Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations CD/LP/Track Review Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 15, 2017
Read "Cantos Invisíveis" CD/LP/Track Review Cantos Invisíveis
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 13, 2017
Read "We Live Here" CD/LP/Track Review We Live Here
by Geno Thackara
Published: January 18, 2017
Read "2468 West Grand Boulevard" CD/LP/Track Review 2468 West Grand Boulevard
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: December 27, 2016
Read "Feather" CD/LP/Track Review Feather
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 22, 2017
Read "Without All the Chatter" CD/LP/Track Review Without All the Chatter
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 7, 2017
Read "We Are The World" CD/LP/Track Review We Are The World
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 27, 2016

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.