Of the many ethnic fusions of jazz, this may be the most wondrous and startling of them all. Shepik plays electric guitar and a variety of similarly amplified string instruments: saz, Portugese guitar, cumbus, as well as acoustic guitar and banjo. His approach is primarily that of a single-line staccato melodicist, more whirling dervish than Jimi Hendrix. Themes are taken from Balkan, Persian, Turkish, and African motifs (all compositions are written by Shepik), and they take on a life of their own. Many of the melodies are played in unison with alto/soprano saxophonist Peter Epstein, who emerges as an equal partner and important voice. Two similar sounding themes define the Commuters' approach; "The Water's Thirst" has a singing acoustic guitar and soprano sax with a slower rhythm that suggests a Turkish caravan, while the same line is sped up in a frenzy in 13/8 time on cumbus and alto for the showstopper "Mint." The band also includes electric bass guitarist Tony Scherr (Fima Ephron has toured with the band), drummer Kenny Wollesen (Michael Sarin has been a Commuter in concert), and percussionist Seido Salifoski. Scherr's dark bass underpinnings and the percussionists' propulsive ethnic beats provide the perfect launching pad to send Shepik and Epstein flying. Collectively they are making some incredibly difficult and different music sound natural, free, and purposeful. This CD is essential for world music listeners, highly recommended to creative music lovers, and without a doubt one of the boldest music hybrids to come down the pike in the last 40 years.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos