Paul Shapiro

It's in the Twilight

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Arranger, composer, and saxophonist Paul Shapiro issued a whopper of a Tzadik debut in Midnight Minyan. That amazing set took six traditional Jewish melodies and ramped them up into a modern jazz blend that took meaty bits and pieces from post-bop and modal jazz, and deep honking R&B forms, and grafted them freely onto the originals. It was in his own compositions -- there were two -- where Shapiro's true musical brilliance shown brightest. On It's in the Twilight, Shapiro turns that record inside out and performs six originals and two devotional pieces. The same band performs Shapiro's music with energy, glee, and true sophistication. The romp starts on the first track, "Light Rolls the Darkness," a traditional piece. Shapiro grafts an Afro-Cuban rhythm and harmonic line onto the original melody and so what you get is a modern Jewish bolero. There is no stretching involved, either. The front line with Peter Apfelbaum and Shapiro on saxophones, Steven Bernstein on trumpet (and slide trumpet later) urged on by Brian Mitchell's piano playing is utterly groove-driven. Drummer Tony Lewis and bassist Booker King can shift on a dime, but can take the entire mess deeper and wider. Mitchell, for his part, allows traces of his influences to shine through from Herbie Hancock and Frank Emilio Flynn to Ramsey Lewis and Vince Guaraldi, his melodic and rhythmic sensibilities are fluid and in the pocket. Shapiro's "Children of Abraham" takes the big beat further on this gorgeous charger that brings in everyone from Latin jazz maestros Machito, and Tito Puente to the klezmer of Dave Tarras. The lyric line is grafted onto salsero and bolero while remaining fully Jewish. But when the honking and shouting goes on in the solos, it's strictly edgy post-bop with an ear for the rail. On "Oy Veys Mir," the melodies come from Yiddish folk forms but are laid out in bluesed-out Ellingtonia from the Cotton Club era as it met the great soloists of the Duke's Blanton-Webster band. And so it goes: there isn't a moment on this wonderful set that doesn't push the listener toward delight; it swings, wails, sings, and cries with pleasure.

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