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Brad Shepik Trio: Drip

Brad Shepik has largely been associated with the skittering rhythms and shifting modes of the Mediterranean region. And for good reason: Shepik’s professional career has mostly involved ethnic-leaning ensembles like Pachora, Tridruga, and the Tiny Bell and Paradox Trios. In these settings, on such instruments as the tamboura, tres and saz, he’s honed a jazz-inflected approach to Balkan, Turkish and North African music that has no close equivalent or clear antecedent.

But Shepik has equal passion and provision for the modern mainstream, as his discography quietly attests. His last solo disc, 2001’s Short Trip (Knitting Factory), debuted a straightahead trio featuring fellow travelers Scott Colley and Tom Rainey, respectively on bass and drums. Drip seems to pick up where Trip left off, with the same personnel and focus. Like its predecessor, this disc carves a distinctive path through turf that’s already been ceaselessly trod.

Fans of the guitar-trio format will recognize some signposts on this journey. The two great Pats are clearly invoked: Martino on a brightly swinging “P.M.,” with its stop-time, hard-bop hits; and Metheny on a gently percolating near-bossa called “Trails.” The ghost of Grant Green materializes briefly as well, during Shepik’s tasty single-note phrases on the opening track. On that same track, an irresistible ditty called “A Boogie,” the band employs the sort of shift-on-a-dime groove patented in the late ’80s by Bill Frisell.

What sets this group apart-besides the shared language of virtuosity-is an unselfconscious range of appetites. They’re capable of alternating between teetering flash-bulb tirades and intimate bedtime stories, with no perceptible shift. (Actually, this all happens within one tune, the intricate and engrossing “Balance.”) Elsewhere on the album they’re adapting West African music, Indonesian music, the blues-and nothing ever sounds put-on, half-baked or insincere. In this way, the trio can hardly be seen as Shepik’s “jazz” outlet. Obviously it’s all music, each element as important as the next.

Originally Published