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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Shape Shifter

Miles High MHR 8607




1. Shape Shifter
2. The Alchemist
3. Without a Trace
4. The Soulful Mr Williams
5. Pedacinho do Brasil
6. New Bamboo
7. 3 'n' 2
8. Incandescence
9. Last Call
Scott Reeves - Alto flugelhorn, alto valve trombone
Rich Perry - Tenor sax
Jim Ridl - Piano
Mike McGuirk - Bass
Andy Watson - Drums

Scott Reerves is a new name to me, although he has apparently played with such people as Chico O'Farrill, Dave Liebman, Oliver Lake, Anthony Braxton and John Patitucci. If those names suggest an eclectic approach to jazz, that is precisely what you get on this CD, recorded in  March 2008 at Cecil's Jazz Club - drummer Cecil Brooks III's club in New Jersey.

All the compositions are by Scott Reeves and this is the sort of album that may take you a while to get into. The tunes are interesting but not necessarily catchy at first hearing, and the solos mix straightforward swing with fairly way-out freedom. The appropriately-named title-track is typical of the way that the music changes shape in the course of one number. In fact Shape Shifter is based on a 12-tone row, with unexpected fluctuations in tempo. Drummer Andy Watson discreetly fills gaps.

The music may appear daunting at first, but close listening repays the effort, particularly with the unusual combination of front-line instruments. Scott Reeves usually plays the trombone but here he uses the alto flugelhorn for seven numbers and alto valve trombone for the others (the latter, designed by Reeves, is "a standard valve trombone with one-third of the tubing cut off"). These instruments blend well with Rich Perry's tenor sax.

The Alchemist also changes tempo at times but it is basically an accessible swinger. Here and elsewhere, pianist Jim Ridl contributes interesting solo work. Other notable tracks include Pedacinho do Brasil, a Latin-American piece which, according to the sleeve-notes, was inspired by Hermeto Pascoal. And Incandescence wanders thoughtfully at a ruminative tempo, contrasting with the final Last Call, which might be a Charles Mingus composition in its hints of a disciplined yet wayward imagination.

A recent TV documentary about string quartets made the point that such ensembles can be unified groups which nevertheless allow the individual personalities of the players to be expressed. The same might be said of this quintet, where five skilful jazz musicians work in harmony while retaining their individuality. This is an album for listeners who like a challenge.


Tony Augarde

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