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Brad Shepik Quartet: Across the Way

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A thoughtful composer and sensitive player with a keen ear for harmony and rhythmic nuance, guitarist Brad Shepik has over the years channeled his interest in Balkan music into his bands Pachora and the Paradox Trio. For this project, in which he is joined by vibraphonist Tom Beckham, bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Mark Guiliana, he pursues an altogether different muse.

The combination of crystalline vibes and fluid guitar lines immediately recalls Gary Burton’s quartet with Pat Metheny (specifically 1976’s Passengers). This quality is particularly evident on the evocative, chamber-like numbers “Down the Hill” and “Garden.” The moody title track, underscored by Shepik’s pensive arpeggiating, is highlighted by Roeder’s expressive upright bass solo and Guiliana’s remarkable sensitivity and interactive touch. The exhilarating “Xylo,” with its dark lines and challenging intervals, marks some different territory-more Pat Martino than Pat Metheny. The Latin-flavored “German Taco” is a light-hearted romp that again showcases Roeder’s huge, woody tones and improvisational instincts along with Beckham’s singing vibes work.

“Marburg” is essentially an opiated version of Jeff Beck’s “Scatterbrain,” while the swinging stop-time vehicle “Transfer” again reveals Guiliana’s many assets. Shepik’s gift for lyricism comes across on the ballad “Pfaffenhofen,” underscored by Guiliana’s gentle brushwork. Principal soloists Shepik and Beckham both dig into the funky fabric of the chugging “Mambo Terni” with gritty abandon, then dance intricate unison and cascading counterpoint lines around each other on the challenging “Your Egg Roll” (with allusions to Chick Corea and Burton’s duet on “La Fiesta”).

Shepik and company close it out with the dreamy lullaby “Train Home,” which includes just a touch of Frisell-ian backwards guitar. This beautiful collaboration, highly recommended for Metheny and Burton fans, offers further evidence for Shepik as one of the most consistently creative and stimulating guitarist-composers on the scene today.

Originally Published