Human Activity SuiteSGL SA1576-2
“It’s the meditative richness of the music – its compelling sense of endangered cultures and the quiet intensity of its feelings – that gives this work its character…Shepik [is] among the most articulate and quickest-witted of guitarists…”
– Stuart Broomer, AllAboutJazz
Growing up outside Seattle in the ’70s and ’80s, Brad Shepik spent a lot of time outdoors, hiking, camping, skiing, fly fishing and sailing. Later, as a New York based guitarist fascinated by traditional world music, he traveled in Bali, Morocco, the middle East, South America, and Europe, experiencing the natural beauty and cultures of those places. Human Activity Suite: Sounding a Response to Climate Change is a personal statement about his concern for our future: “I wanted to connect my musical expression to how I felt about the earth and the environment we are creating for ourselves as a result of how we live. The idea to do that had been brewing in me for a long time.” Commissioned by Chamber Music America, the suite was premiered and recorded in New York in June 2008.
Shepik is among the most versatile and distinctive guitarists of his generation, having recorded extensively as a leader and performed and recorded with Joey Baron, Dave Douglas, Carla Bley and Paul Motian. He is equally acclaimed for his work in various styles of world-jazz with groups such as Pachora, Tridruga, the Paradox Trio, Yuri Yunakov’s Bulgarian Wedding Band, and his own band the Commuters, as well as with oud and violin virtuoso Simon Shaheen. Shepik conceived Human Activity Suite for his current working trio (Places You Go, Songlines) plus trumpet and bass. The instrumentation offered an expanded palette to develop music that would “take the listener on a journey around the globe, and focus on how these issues affect us as people living on the earth rather than people living in a nation. Instrumental music can’t really address this subject in a concrete way, but my hope is that it can provide an opportunity for greater awareness, and that it get echoed from other directions. Humans have to actively and creatively work together to reverse the trend and figure out a way we can live on the planet or perish.”
The basic concept was to write a piece for each of the seven continents, and other pieces about factors and effects of climate change such as carbon, desertification, and changing ocean currents. But the suite moves beyond its programmatic framework to embrace Brad’s vision of a musical world without borders: “How can one term, ‘world music,’ cover such a range of human expression in sound? When I use it I’m referring to folk music that is indigenous to a certain area and transmitted through mostly an oral tradition. But I meet musicians and music lovers from different parts of the world who listen to and are informed by everything under the sun…. Ultimately it all gets filtered through my own sensibility. I think we can assume that music is expressing something sub- or beyond verbal, no matter what program we attach to it. And in jazz we improvise, we tell our own story. I tried to set up situations for that, within the context of the individual movements. My musicians are all great improvisers, and they brought the project to life through their creative powers.” The result, enhanced by audiophile production, is a recording whose open-hearted beauty, variety, humor and broad stylistic reach is one artist’s appeal to engage in global thinking and living.
The AllAboutJazz interview with Brad Shepik on Human Activity Suite is here.
“[Shepik] is pushing the genre forward with his harmonically complex but grounded guitar style and a creative restlessness that has motivated him to absorb elements of rock, free improv, reggae, 20th century classical, as well as traditional music of nearly every stripe….Rich musicality and intelligent grooves….” — Blogcritics.org
“[He] not only conveys wildly different locales but also the wealth of emotions that surround the getting there and back….Shepik seems guided by the joy of the moment more than anything. And that’s a place you won’t ever want to leave.” — Time Out Chicago
“Shepik and his band are capable of precision and abandon, tradition and release….Each composition functions like an ingenious self-winding clock with precisely interlocking elements…” — Will Layman, PopMatters.com