11 West 84
Water Street Music
Up and coming jazz guitarists tend to present themselves as either a player or an artist, both of which offer a variety of pitfalls-especially the latter. With this set of originals, Hepner, a Vancouver native, reveals that he has chosen what may be the rockier of the two routes.
Backed by a quintet that includes Hepner's brother Darcy, who plays a mean tenor saxophone, the guitarist demonstrates his capabilities as a composer, player and leader. The tunes-generally open and airy, appealing but neither trite nor overly edgy-include the lithely minimalist "April Dancer" and "To Old Friends," a moody ballad. When given the occasion to step up with an aggressive solo, as on the upbeat "Drums Stop Bad," he comes off as a bit tentative and sketchy, a tactic that may be appropriate for some of the material, but often leaves the impression that he has the ability to do more.
Overall, the album features a fair share of bright moments-compositionally and instrumentally-but it tends to raise more questions than it answers.