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Peter Epstein, Brad Shepik, Matt Kilmer: Lingua Franca

There’s a simple elegance to this encounter between alto/soprano saxophonist Peter Epstein, guitarist Brad Shepik and percussionist Matt Kilmer. A non-Western ambience prevails thanks to Kilmer’s dumbek and frame drums and Shepik’s scalar exoticism. Five of the pieces are Shepik’s, four are Epstein’s; a collectively composed bonus track (“Improvisation 1”) brings the disc to a close.

With no bassist, Shepik is free to roam sonically, and his trustiest vehicle is an octaver that broadens his tone and adds low end to the mix. His occasional looping, phasing and backward effects never obscure his clean and pure electric-guitar sound. There are brilliant acoustic-guitar glimmers as well, on “Meditation,” “Temoin” and others. The trio balances freedom and rigorous structure on these tunes, which vary widely: from the complex line writing of “Two Door” and “Monsaraz,” to the meditative, folkish lyricism of “Emerald” and “Kumanovo,” to the majestic sweep of “Here and There.”

Epstein is heated yet focused on both his horns, and Kilmer always achieves the right blend of misty texture and propulsive tempo. Shepik is the anchor, however, and when he takes his turn on the bright 7/8 funk of “Miro,” he’s truly improvising without a net.

Originally Published