Shapiro Project

True Colors

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Not all of the artists who have recorded for the Las Vegas-based TNC Jazz are residents of that city; if the company wanted to record an improviser who lived in Seattle or Baltimore, it wouldn't refrain from doing so simply because he/she lacked a Vegas address. However, it is safe to say that TNC is the Vegas equivalent of Chicago's Southport label or Boston's Brownstone Recordings -- in other words, a jazz-oriented operation that is great about recording local improvisers. True Colors is a perfect example of TNC documenting Vegas' jazz scene. All four members of the Shapiro Project were pursuing advanced degrees in jazz studies at the University of Las Vegas (UNLV) when the quartet was formed in 2000; that is true of leader Eugene Shapiro (a guitarist who is originally from St. Petersburg, Russia), his brother Boris Shapiro (drums), Kevin Thomas (acoustic bass), and Rusty Blevins (tenor sax). On this 2001 session, the Shapiro Project employs three guest soloists: pianist Stefan Karlsson, tenor saxman Wayne DeSilva, and guitarist Joe Lano -- and all of the participants do their part to make this CD enjoyable. True Colors can hardly be called groundbreaking; Eugene Shapiro's compositions are quite derivative. But derivative doesn't necessarily mean bad -- an album doesn't have to be innovative or forward-thinking to have merit, and Eugene Shapiro's group is good at what it does. The Shapiro Project's specialty is acoustic-oriented hard bop and post-bop with a strong '60s influence -- not '60s as in avant-garde or free jazz, but '60s as in Joe Henderson and early pre-fusion, pre-Weather Report Wayne Shorter. To the group's credit, True Colors doesn't inundate listeners with beaten-to-death standards; Eugene Shapiro composed all the material himself. Although not a masterpiece, True Colors is a decent debut for the Shapiro Project.