Brad Shepik

The Well

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Brad Shepik's second CD as a leader finds the New York guitarist on familiar musical ground, melding Middle Eastern folk melodies and dance rhythms with influences from modern creative jazz. The Well, like The Loan that preceded it, presents an appealing musical hybrid with inventive playing, composing, and arranging throughout. Shepik alternates between electric and acoustic guitars and saz, a stringed instrument with movable frets that originates from Istanbul; his bandmates include saxophonist Peter Epstein and percussionist Seido Salifoski, both from The Loan, as well as newcomers Skuli Sverrisson on bass and Michael Sarin on drums. Every tune is a winner on this standout recording. "Zephyr," with traditional Turkish themes performed on alto sax and saz over an infectious uptempo groove, is a particularly strong track. "Might Could" is a bit of an anomaly: a gentle ballad performed by Shepik on multi-tracked acoustic guitar. On this piece the harmonics shift toward Western jazz and even blues, and it is a lovely, quiet interlude after the CD's preceding groove-based tunes. "The Flower and the Bee," the CD's final track, returns to the uptempo groove. At over 14 minutes, this tune has a jam band quality with spacy interludes and rhythms that loosen and tighten before accelerating to a frenzied pace at the track's close. The production packs a strong punch, and the musicians interact like a working unit despite the first recorded appearances of Sverrisson and Sarin with the band. The Well is strong, vital, and insistent, well suited to active listening or even hitting the dancefloor. If you are seeking pleasant background music -- sonic wallpaper with an exotic tinge -- look elsewhere.

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