A cumulatively entrancing array of colours and moods.
Michael Quinn 2009-04-27
Andy Sheppard's debut outing on the arthouse ECM label takes him out of an exclusively jazz context and into one which includes tonal fluidity, reciprocity between instrumental voices and the accommodation of other musical influences. These include African, Latin and Indian; combined in atmospheric, free-flowing and tuneful experiments in acoustic and electronic sounds within a cumulatively entrancing array of colours and moods.
Although the seven new pieces are all credited to Sheppard, they owe much to the tight ensemble (and, just as noticeably, the improvisational vitality) of his four collaborators. Prime amongst them must be tabla player Kuljit Bhamra and guitarist John Parricelli, both of whom are longtime Sheppard associates and regular fixtures in his eponymous quartet.
Bhamra's tabla vies with Sheppard's soprano and tenor saxophones for focal (and, indeed, vocal) point throughout. Augmented by snare drum, cymbals and other percussion, Bhamra adds considerably more than mere rhythmic pacemaking. Parricelli proves himself again to be one of the most nimble and nuanced guitarists around; his sound enlarged in both breadth and depth by the additional, no less sensitive and subtle, guitar of Eivind Aarset. And underpinning all is the magnificently precise double bass of Arild Andersen, full of character and definition while also moody and mellow.
A large part of the album's signature is due to Aarset and Andersen's delicately engineered electronics that lend things a pleasingly hazy, soft-edged daydream-like quality.
Sheppard's own loose, long-limbed and gravity-free melodies float and dance on air to always striking, often exquisitely beautiful effect. Manfred Eicher's characteristically understated production providing the perfect frame for an extended tonal experiment that veers between wistfulness and carefree glee with manicured ease.