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The Shapiro Project is a quartet formed two years ago by grad students at the University of Nevada–Las Vegas who were pursuing degrees in Jazz Studies. Guitarist Eugene Shapiro, the group’s composer / arranger, serves as nominal leader with Rusty Blevins on tenor and soprano saxophones, Kevin Thomas on bass and a second Shapiro, younger brother Boris, at the drum kit. Lending a helping hand (six, actually) on the group’s debut album for TNC Jazz are UNLV faculty members Wayne DeSilva (tenor sax), Stefan Karlsson (piano) and Joe Lano (guitar). DeSilva solos smartly on “White Nights,” Lano on “True Colors,” Karlsson on “Rainbow” and “1114 on 6857” (whose cryptic title must mean something to someone). The unsigned liner notes praise the group’s “sparkling vitality” and “musical spirit,” an acknowledgment that is not misplaced. As is true of most albums we’ve heard from TNC, the music is persistently straight–ahead and swinging, the musicians as accomplished as they are unrecognized by the public at large. There is, however, an abundance of talent on the scene today, and what makes the Shapiro Project stand out are Eugene’s statuesque compositions, charmingly melodic, housed in an especially stylish groove and never less than persuasive. The improvised passages are similarly clever and shapely, with everyone given more than one chance to blow. Given the facts of life insofar as Jazz record sales are concerned, True Colors won’t sell nearly as many copies as it should. But the quartet and its guests have done their part; the music is first–rate.